Warning: Today’s post is in no way meant to criticize, discriminate, or offend anyone. I am not that kind of person and I never plan to be. If you feel like you may be offended by a simple, innocent discussion on discrimination, please stop reading this post now. Thanks.
The picture above has been getting a lot of publicity on the Internet lately. Last night it popped up on my Facebook feed. I feel the need to discuss this situation because I have been offended by the way people are treating me in respect to my reaction to this photo.
You know what I thought when I saw this photo? A cute little boy dressed up in a silly shirt. I also saw some REALLY creepy looking monkey feet. That’s it. That’s all. So when I read the post, I was amazed to find out why the photo has been circulating.
You see, people have become offended by this photo because of the fact that the children have different colors of skin. Not only that, but the darker skinned boy is dressed as a monkey while the Caucasian boy is a soldier.
Now apparently there is some term about those of African descent and a monkey– it’s a negative term or saying or whatever. This, I admit, I did not know. So maybe I can see how it could be somewhat offensive to those who know of the term, have been talked about in that reference frame, etc. I get feeling like crap because of being bullied, put down, etc.
But honestly, I saw a a cute, silly looking little boy. So that’s what I posted. I shared the story and stated
You know what I saw when I saw this photo? Aw! Cute little boy! He’s dressed up as a cute monkey. When I started reading the comments, I was like what?!?! I get the whole racism is wrong thing, I really do. I am totally against discrimination, but in my mind the darker color of his skin better matches the monkey’s color. I highly doubt it was intentionally done to insult anyone, it’s a kid’s shirt!
Everything I said was the absolute truth! Honestly, if the monkey were instead an orange orangutan, I would, as the creator, give a little red-headed boy’s head as the photo to correspond to it. It’s not that I am trying to discriminate- I am simply one of those people who like colors to match! If you dress your kid up as a ladybug for Halloween, are you going to give them blue underclothes and a red spotted back (for the wings)? I think not! The colors will be black and red. Do you see what I’m saying?
I honestly feel like this was not an intentional display of racism. If it was, the company must be seriously stupid to think that they will continue to sell products as well as they already do! What kind of company would intentionally make that kind of move?
Anyway, I posted the story and it didn’t take long for my first friend to reply. We’ve known each other for well over 5 years now, and we have never had any problems with one another. When I talk to my friends, we all understand that we can debate or disagree with each other, but we never do so in a nasty way. This time was different though. The way that she talked made it seem like I was an incompetent fool who had no feelings for anyone else.
After the first comment, I tried to explain my opinion in a way that would be better understood. She had mentioned that even unintentionally offending someone is wrong, so I replied:
I’m not saying it’s right. If it hurts someone’s feelings then it should be fixed. But sometimes I think that people seek opportunities to be offended. Honestly, in my opinion, that kid is most definitely the cuter of the two! I’m slightly offended that the other kid is dressed up as a soldier- are we teaching our kids it’s okay to go to war? But I wouldn’t make such a big issue out of it ya know?
My statement about the soldier has nothing to do with the color of skin by the way, but that’s how it was interpreted. As if I was saying that the only people who should be forced (or even asked) to go to war are those of non-Caucasian coloring. Really?!?! Why would I say this!
At this point I got a reply that was equally hurtful and basically told me that I was incompetent (though not in this words of course). My decision: to stop replying. And yet, here I sit, being hurt by what she said to put me down.
Nowhere in my discussion was I putting her down, telling her she was an idiot, etc. But that is how I felt after reading her comments.
So my point, that if people treat things as positive as possible and innocently, then the world might be a better place, backfired into my face so that here I sit feeling discriminated against in some way.
I am not racist. My best friend has darker colored skin, and when I asked him his thoughts, he said he saw how people could be offended, but he thought it was cute. So obviously this is not me being some white supremacist or something outrageous like that!
Over the next few hours I got a lot of private messages from other friends who had read the post. Many of them were apologizing for the way I had been talked to; some wanted to continue my debate in order to truly get my point across.
The thing is, I wasn’t trying to seem like a bad person. I was trying to consider people’s feelings, while also stating that racism is not necessarily lying around every corner. In addition, we are the ones who are teaching our children what racism even means. Yes, there was a point in the past where slaves in America were brought over from Africa, and that, I believe we almost all agree, is an absolutely horrible fact. But I feel that we are not learning from it now! If everyone would stop using derogatory terms to reference others, even as jokes, then the children of this generation would never even know what these things mean! I was not surrounded by racism in my childhood, so I am not racist now. I was not discriminated against because of my religion, so I do not put down others for their differences in beliefs.
Simply, if God wanted us to truly be different, He would have created more changes between one person and another than just a change in hue of our skin. He created us all the way we are because that is how we were meant to be. It’s not a bad thing- it’s a thing to cherish. As much as I hate anxiety, I have a lot of it. And I try to believe that God gave me that difficulty in my life because I am supposed to learn something from it. I am supposed to be unique and different from others, not because I need to be teased and discriminated against, but because that is the way it should be.
My overall message here is that our children grow up knowing what we teach them. If we teach them to discriminate, they will. If we teach them to hold grudges, tell them stories about people hurting us, they will be more likely to put up a wall and look for these discrimination in their own life. Does discrimination occur? Yes. Every day. But does everyone discriminate? No. So before you go and categorize people into “white people treat others differently” or “you must be racist because you put that kids face here instead of here” focus on how you are making other people feel in your reactions. Something totally innocent can turn into a big deal in the blink of an eye. And sometimes it hurts not only those who would be directly involved, but all of us who are trying to stand up for what we believe in.
And please, whatever you do, remember that just because I am Caucasian does not mean that I am not discriminated against. Don’t throw me into a stereotypical category as though I am just like everyone else.
Finally, I think God intends for us to learn from the past- from slavery, the Pilgrimage to America, etc. Bad things did happen back then. We need to learn from them. I for one am sorry that my ancestors may have had anything to do with the slavery of others (my ancestors are from the South). At the same time, I understand that it was a bad thing and that the only way to stop it from happening again is to not treat anyone differently or hold grudges for those of us who have long passed. I pulled similar knowledge from the experience of religious stifling that occurred in Britain before the Pilgrims came to America. Same goes for the World War and the terrorization of Jews and light-skinned, blonde-haired people in Europe.
We are the people we act like. If my innocence offended my friends, I am sorry. If it offended anyone else, I am also sorry. But I am not racist and I do not side with anyone who tries to discriminate in any way shape or form. Think before you judge. Sometimes people just mean well, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first glance. While everyone gangs up on the t-shirt company, I take a more aerial viewpoint and say that people are now discriminating against them because of a decision that they unintentionally made. Let the company make adaptations to their t-shirts if that is what needs to be done to stop the offenses, but after that, just leave them be. There’s no point in creating more drama than what is necessary.
Those are my thoughts. I am not sorry if they are wrong. Wrong is a perspective term and, unless you’re talking about facts, cannot be stated as fact. What I said was wrong to my friend, but it wasn’t wrong to others. It’s an opinion, and I think we need to understand the difference between that and fact.
I am going to continue to pray about this situation in the hopes that I will stop feeling so hurt by the entire situation. I try to say that things could be better if we worked together and get criticized for it in a way that puts down my beliefs and my feelings. It’s not right and I hope that one day people will stop having to feel like I do right now. For any reason…