I may anger some with this message, I may even lose customers but I wanted to take the time to explain my position on bakers denying their services to potential clients based upon race, religion & sexual identity. I wanted to take a moment to provide a bit of background with some examples of how my life has been impacted by discrimination.
I was raised in the Mid-West where we aren’t exactly known for excepting things that stray from the “norm”. Generally mid-western folks are quite conservative with their views both personal & political. I grew up in Indianapolis surrounded by trees, fuzzy woodland animals, a very large family and a lack of people who were proud of being different. I spent most of my life there being called “weird” & I never could understand why.
Was I too culturally aware?
Was I too creative for my own good?
No, I was just being me while in the presence of Â people who tried to shove me into their stereotypical boxes.
At a very young age I learned that it was my job to show others that my potential was limitless and I would not conform to the standards dictated by society’s views of what an African-American woman should be.
Indianapolis is a major mid-western city (12th largest city in the nation based on population according to the Census) with a vibe that is more like the bar Cheers…”everybody knows your name.” As a direct result of being a big city with a small town feel, people probably know your family and your personal business too! Being different in a place like that can be difficult to say the least and keeping your true self from others can be close to impossible. Often in my school age years I would notice the kids who were imported to Indiana were very proud of where they were from while us native Hoosiers tended to want to be from anywhere else. It was while in school that I grasped the concept of tolerance versus acceptance. To tolerate a person and/or their behavior or lifestyle means to permit it without hindrance…the whole concept of “as long as it doesn’t effect me then I don’t care, But I don’t condone or encourage it.” But to be truly accepting is to embrace and acknowledge. In my opinion, One can tolerate and not accept but one cannot accept without embracing.
The street that I lived on from the time I can remember until age 19 was the perfect setting for teaching acceptance. On the quiet cul-de-sac that we called home there were 19 homes filled with a diverse cast of characters. A retired judge, a gay couple with children, a lesbian couple with children, a married couple who never had children, military veterans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Christians, African-American families & Caucasian families who all resided together. We all knew each other, watched out for each other and regularly celebrated together.Â Many of the neighbors that were present when my family first moved in are still there today. On this street, American flags were flown proudly and your neighbors always waved as you’d pass by. Front yards & drive-ways were meeting places. Porch swings were always occupied. From our porch on a Saturday you would normally see: the man across the street playing his acoustic guitar sans shirt, the man at the end of the block cutting grass in very short cut off shorts, a couple throwing the frisbee to their dog, children racing on bikes or playing basketball and people manicuring their lawns. I was shown at a young age that even if a family is comprised of different parts than my own, they are still a family. So seeing two Dads with their son and daughter at a grocery store never made me feel confused or upset, it was normal. Our home was an amazing example of love and acceptance. Before I turned 10, my parents took in three of my first cousins and raised them as their own. Our family went from 5 to 8 overnight, adjustments were made, rooms were shared and 6 kids sharing one bathroom was often an annoying tango but we survived and thrived there. There was never a dull moment in our home especially because all of our friends knew that they were welcome at any time so we always had a home filled with laughter, music and acceptance.
My parents have been the single biggest blessing to my life! My Mother taught me how to love & nurture all things unconditionally. This is an example of her influence on my emotional health and world view. In the 90’s, my Mother’s hairdresser and friend, Ronnie Tate, passed away from AIDS. At the time, there was still a stigma and general fear surrounding theÂ disease. Did my Mother turn away from her friend in his time of need? No! She embraced him, she cared for him, she sheltered him from negativity and held his hand when he was in pain. My Mother was not afraid of what others thought about her friendship, she was just worried about her friend. Ronnie was a dynamic man with an illuminating presence. He was an entrepreneur in the process of trademarking his hair care line before his death. Ronnie lived his life surrounded by people, he was not afraid of being who he was or speaking his mind. I respected Ronnie for his unapologetic personality and charisma. It has been more than 20 years since he passed away but the impression that he made on me was powerful.
My Mother also participated in a mentoring program called Sister Friends where she met a Caucasian teen Mother named Lori. Lori needed help with basic household items, daycare and parenting. My Mother guided her through caring for her newborn, finding a job and making amends with her family. When I asked why she was doing all of these things for a stranger she simply replied “It’s the Christian thing to do.” My Mother knew that Lori could not afford to pay her back and wanted nothing in return, she just felt that had it been her in Lori’s shoes she would hope that someone would do the same. Â My Mother had us in church on Sundays and was always sure to remind us that God IS Love. I’m not sure if I truly understood what the phrase meant as a child but I realize now that her actions were displaying what those words never could!
My Father taught me common sense, problem solving & always demonstrated a solid work ethic. My Father has always blown the stereotypes of black fatherhood out of the water! My Father has always provided for more people than he probably should, he was always available to help and offer advice, he took the time to teach us how to do things for ourselves and he showed us what it meant to take pride in what we did. My Father has been my single greatest resource for talking things through and I probably annoy him with my “What would you do?” scenarios but he always offers sound advice.
My Father joined the Navy at a time when being African-American and in the military was awkward. The Civil Rights movement had ended but integration was still in its infancy. He served alongside predominantly Caucasian men, some of which had never been in such close proximity to African-Americans. (I still look at the photo taken on the ship he was on and laugh at the fact that there were three or four black faces in a photo of maybe two hundred people.) His conversations and experiences while enlisted aided in shapingÂ the way that some of his shipmates viewed African-Americans. My Father has the uncanny ability to make people contemplate and consider their actions by using a common sense approach to provide a virtual “smack back to reality” which encouraged us children to think creatively and solve our own problems. If someone has ever witnessed you do something then given you a look that made you reevaluate your entire thought process…it was probably my Father! 🙂
My passion has always been analyzing personality types and understanding how people process their thoughts and translate them to actions…so high school was a phenomenal experience. I attended a school with 5,000 other students which gave me the unique opportunity to stand out when I wanted or to completely hide away when necessary.Â I did not exactly fit in with anyone. I felt isolated and alone. I yearned to have interactions with people who simply understood me, who accepted me, who liked me for who I was.Â I had a core group of friends but I never shied away from getting to know people that I didn’t exactly fit in with. Even if it was just a conversation had in passing, a friendly hug or a comforting smile, I tried to always be approachable and friendly. But sadly, being nice is always overshadowed when you are “weird”. I went through a goth phase, didn’t mind blaring the radio when a country or rock song came on & always made a point to audition for dramatic productions. I was a founding member of my high school’s poetry club. I was on the speech and debate team. I performed as part of multiple school choirs. I was goofy beyond measure and sometimes said inappropriate things just to get people out of their own heads and make them smile. I gave lots of hugs, advice & support to other teens. I understood the joy and pride of being picked first for something and I also knew the pain of being completely overlooked and rejected for the one thing that meant the world to me at the time. I was the girl that everyone’s parents loved to have over for dinner.Â For lack of a better phrase, I was a “cool nerd.” Â I did things in high school that earned me the label “strange” amongst some of my African-American friends. I have always been articulate and well mannered so hearing someone ask “Why are you using your white voice?” became normal to me. For some of my Caucasian friends, I was their “token black friend” who answered their questions about what it was like to “be black.” However, I was often asked questions that I did not have answers for such as: “What’s it like to live in the ghetto?” “Where can I get drugs?” “What do chitterlings taste like?” “Why don’t you have big lips & a big butt?” “Why isn’t your hair nappy?” My “black card” had been revoked YEARS earlier so I constantly left those questions for someone more qualified since none of those things ever applied to my life. I beat the odds, I was born in wedlock to parents who lived in a stable, middle-class suburban area where we never had to worry about shootings or our lights being cut off. Explaining this to other black people who grew up in different circumstances has been met with mixed reactions, some understand and others refer to my childhood as “The Cosby Experience.” I recall that a classmate came up to me and said “You’re the whitest black girl that I know!” and did not mean it as a compliment, that was the moment that I realized I was being tolerated, not accepted.
The story about the bakery in Indiana that chose to deny their services to a same sex couple who needed a cake blew my mind! Why? Because I understand doing things in the name of religious beliefs but I personally leave the judgement to the creator/higher power. I have yet to find a bible verse that gives me control over someone else’s life or that gives me free reign to judge or condemn. Apparently the owners of the bakery did not want their cake present at a wedding that was “not aligned with their religious beliefs.” I won’t make this about religion, that just happens to be their cited reason for denial of services. But I do have a question…If no one had mentioned that the cake was for a same-sex couple (by way of the engaged couple coming in together or part of the order containing something that made the bakery owners assume that the cake would be for a same-sex couple, etc) would they have made the cake? As a baker, I ask who a cake is for but for the purposes of personalization…not discrimination. A custom cake order is not meant to be an application and interview process with a background check, it is supposed to be a personal service. If a bakery or baker has particular views about who they will and won’t serve then it needs to be noted clearly just like their menu options. Doing so would allow people who do not fit their criteria to avoid their business instead of wasting time looking through a portfolio of items that they do not qualify for.
Do you remember the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld? I imagine that in order to enforce the idea of not wanting your cake to be a part of a celebration where there will be a certain type of people, you’d have to be much like the Soup Nazi character. Standing next to the cake at the party with a serving knife and saying “No cake for you!” doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. The truth is that after a cake is delivered or picked up there is no way to know who will be enjoying it. I pride myself on making cakes that people will enjoy from the time that they first see it to the time that the last crumb is consumed. My cakes are available to ALL people regardless of gender, race, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, mental capacity and physical limitations. I am a lover of people, I will work with anyone. I am passionate about what I do & I am proud of who I am. My greatest hope is that people will learn to celebrate differences instead of pointing out others flaws.
I feel that discriminating against anyone for any reason is just plain wrong! By doing so you are setting limits and boundaries on what people have the ability to achieve. Some of the most intelligent people have mental and/or physical limitations. Some of the best clothing designers are gay. Some of the best athletes are black. Some of the most influential people in the world are women. Those statements may play into stereotypes but they are facts. So if you hate gay people, think twice the next time you are in the market for a couture ensemble from Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Valentino, Tom Ford, Michael Kors or Christian Louboutin. If you constantly have negative things to say about black people, you should probably not be a fan of the NBA or NFL. If you discriminate against people with disabilities, remember that Steve Jobs (Apple CEO…ya know, the Iphone genius)was dyslexic.
Remember… Don’t Discriminate, Don’t Hate, Just Celebrate!