Behind every great design is a great story. In fact, every product at Batey Girls is born out of a specific and deliberate design process. Upon request from some of my dearest customers, I have decided to share my personal testimony. This is the story of our latest product released for the month of June in our monthly club.
As I sit contemplated with a million and one thoughts this month, the overcoming feeling of silence leaves me empty. I know that we can all testify to the pain of our current circumstances. The issue of racism within the United States leads our concept and design for this month's pair of earrings, which exemplify the beauty of both black and white.
Do you know how the human eye is capable of seeing color? The human eye, being our eyes, which is how we see color in this world. Color is simply the range of visible light that humans can see. Are black and white colors? Well, it depends on how you want to define color. If color is solely the way physics describes it, the visible spectrum of light waves, then black and white are outcasts and don't count as true, physical colors. White is what we see when all wavelengths are reflected off an object. Black, on the other hand, is what our eyes see in a space that reflects very little light at all. If you include Black and White within the definition of color, which would be all of the ways in which the human eye processes light and the lack of it, then black and white earn their place in the crayon box.
I was born and raised in England, and I moved to the United States when I was in 9th grade. Migrating to a new country was not only terrifying, but I entered into a local high school where I was classified as a wealthy white girl. It was expected that I would become friends with the other wealthy white kids and it reminded me of the American high school movies where the lunchroom was the place where segregation was exemplified. It was such a foreign concept for me because coming from a private Catholic boarding school in England, my best friends were from China and Ghana and I had never had to choose where to sit at lunch because we always just sat together.
I remember sitting down to take my first SAT test and on the first page you are asked to identify your race. I starred at the words listed and asked my teacher, well what do I write. She responded Caucasian. I had no idea what that was, but it was me. Over the years this word has always made me feel uncomfortable. I remember answering 'other' on some forms, and writing in BRITISH! As I sat down to begin writing this letter to our monthly club members, I began to think about this word and I came across this statement when researching race and how we came to classify humans as a specific race.
Blumenbach divided humankind into five "varieties". His five categories included American, Malay, Ethiopian, Mongolian and Caucasian. He chose the term Caucasian to represent the Europeans because a skull from the Caucasus Mountains of Russia in his opinion was the most beautiful. These terms were still commonly used by many scientists in the early 20th century, and most continue today as major designations of the world's peoples.
Reading this statement, many things immediately came to mind, but what really stuck out to me the most was the fact that the race which is defined as Caucasian is based upon the opinion of a German anthropologist, who proposed one of the earliest classifications of the races of mankind. I ask you to ponder on this statement and dig deep, because where we stand today in our fight against racism is based upon a history of horrific crimes against human beings. I stand quite neutral with many opinions as I lead Batey Girls, but I also know that from the very first day I stepped into this country I have witnessed racism every single day. I never did become friends with the rich white kids at my school, my first boyfriend was Black, my husband is Dominican. I do not feel entitled to even share my perspective upon racism, but we cannot continue to talk about the issues of racism in hushed tones.
The history of slavery spans many cultures, nationalities and religions from ancient times to the present day. However, the social, economic, and legal positions of slaves have differed vastly in different systems of slavery in different times and places. Slavery rarely occurs among hunter-gatherer populations because slavery develops under conditions of social stratification. Social stratification refers to society’s categorization of its people into groups based on socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, race, education, gender, occupation, social status, or derived power (social and political). Although slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, human trafficking remains an international problem with an estimated 40 million slaves.
Upon starting my work in the Dominican Republic ten years ago, I had no idea what to expect when I took my first flight to this beautiful island. After a year of intense studies, my master’s degree thesis book was complete and entitled: Architecture as the identification of place in order to resolve social and cultural issues within the Dominican Republic. What I had witnessed over that year of study was not only poverty, but the lives of simple invisible people who were brought into the country illegally to work as slaves in the sugar fields. Sugar was known as White Gold. Sugar is believed to be the reason behind slavery as we know it today. If the sugar cane industry had not existed, approximately 7 million slaves would not have been brought to the US continent over a span of two hundred years. In 1493 Christopher Columbus transported sugar cane from the Canary Islands to the Dominican Republic. Sugar was the commodity that moved the world economy. I wanted to briefly give you some insight into my thesis because it is where my passion was truly ignited for advocacy, justice and standing up for equality no matter the consequences. It was the foundation for my organization, the Batey Rehab Project.
At BRP we talk about breaking the cycle of poverty two generations at a time. To break the cycle is to give these women and children a chance at a new life. We need to break the cycle of racism, prejudice, injustice, inequality and everything else that defines a person into a category. There is only one race and that is the human race. I hope my testimony inspires you to have that conversation, ask those questions and become comfortable within the uncomfortable world we live in today. With so many opinions floating around today, I simply wanted to bring you my personal experience and perspective. Living as free people, our voice has more power than you could possibly imagine.
As our monthly club members wear these beautiful earrings, I can only hope they remember the power behind the story. This story that they believed should be shared beyond our members. Loving each other as one human race is what God always intended for us to do.
Love one another as I have loved you. [John 13:34]
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