Fri | Aug 18, 2017

The content of your character

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2016 | 7:00 AMKarl Salmon
A Dallas police officer, who did not wish to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men.

Four years ago, I had quite an interesting discussion, on the subject of dating, with a black woman whom I knew very well. She shared with me that she would rather date a one-eyed, one-tooth, one-legged white man than a black man who had both eyes, full set of teeth and both legs. She reasoned that despite the white man's challenges, she would still stand a better chance of getting further in life with him.

She meant this in jest (I could only hope).

Four years later, and she is still searching for that elusive white knight in shining armour. I believe she will eventually find him, but in my opinion, it would be challenging for her, since her thought process of exclusiveness was too restrictive and may be a bit flawed in reasoning - if it's any of my damn business.

To sidetrack to a somewhat relevant reflection, during my childhood in the '70s, I was fixated, dreaming of one day courting Cindy from the Brady Bunch. Oh ... that blond hair, blue-eyed white girl. One day, I closed my eyes while prancing around the house, pretending that Cindy and I were walking down the aisle in holy matrimony. I slammed my face into a concrete wall, mouth first, and almost knocked all my front teeth out.

That ended that infatuation.

Television in the '70s played a major role in racial idealism. The socio-economic disparity was so widespread back then that most of us yearned to act, speak, dress, and evolve into the wealthy Caucasian lifestyle that we consumed on a daily basis.

 

STRUGGLE WITH IDENTITY

To this day, we still struggle with our racial identity and remorse that the melanin in our skin coloured us a darker shade we perceive as unacceptable to society and a hindrance to success. We convince ourselves into thinking that the lighter the skin tone, the more pleasing it will become to the eyes of our beholder.

Men and women are now taking the extreme steps of bleaching not just their faces but their entire bodies to achieve the lighter shade that they hope would give them that second glance and added advantage in pursuing the attention of a suitor, their peers, their fans, or a prospective employer - not taking into consideration any other factors that would be far more important in the decision-making process.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character." - the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

We welcome transforming and uplifting shows, strengthened with black family values, like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, and Blackish. They elevated the self-esteem of impressionable black minds that they, too, could parallel the high education and social standards of their white peers, without compromising their racial identity. We beamed with pride at the tremendous achievements (on and off the screen) of Denzel Washington, Blair Underwood, Angela Bassett, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few - all dark-toned role models. Not to mention the endless list of inventors, athletes politicians, educators, and philanthropists. Their achievements in their respective fields are only surpassed by their strong character.

 

What is Character?

 

Character is the trait what defines a person's moral strength and integrity. It includes what they believe in and, most important, how they behave.

Character should not be confused with personality. Character is generally used to determine whether someone is good or bad. So a violent individual can have a bad character, but have a lively personality.

Building a strong character begins by first accepting your race or ethnicity. Acceptance leads to knowledge; knowledge forms appreciation; appreciation builds self-confidence, and self-worth. Despite your perceived external flaws, it is your strong moral and ethical values, and indeed your self-worth, that is complementary to your outer features, and should ultimately capture the admiration of a like-minded observer.

Every individual has his or her right to choose their affiliation, whether romantic, professional, or social. If the decision is your comfort zone, then qualify it. Not to others, but to yourself.

 

ROLE MODELS

However, make sure that your decision was made without compromising who you are. The moral and ethical standards that you set today will be passed on to impressionable minds. Choose the right things for the right reasons.

Children of all ages, races, and backgrounds recognise the power of role models in their lives. Oftentimes imitating what they observe - the dress, the walk, the talk, the crop of the hair. The influence on today's children can be seen everywhere. Beyond the messages of style, behaviour, and appearance, children are also receiving very subtle formative messages about their values, their families, and their race.

It is important that role models be judged by their behaviour not their appearance.

Racial identity should not be compromised in any form for the benefit of fame, wealth, or acceptance. Our forefathers and mothers died in the struggle to defend and preserve our right to exist as who we are as a people.

We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to our offspring, to build and impart a strong racial identity and an uncompromising content of character that fosters respect and admiration and increases the likelihood for us as individuals and collectively to attain self-actualisation.