Wednesday, October 26, 2005

... it Only Works When it's Open

Other than the one day in 1974 when I thought we were Black, I was raised by white working class parents in a white, middle class, medium sized city in the mid-west. My parents had opinions about race, ethnicity, gender roles, sexual orientation, ability, and social class, all of which they’ve changed over the years. You see, they learned these opinions from their limited experiences, and when they gained new experiences, they modified their opinions to be more fitting. I believe its called being open-minded.

When I was a young teenager, my Mom had a talk with me. She told me that it would really bother my father if I ever dated a black boy. When I argued with her, she told me to think of the children. After I figured out what the hell she was talking about, I argued with her some more because I didn’t know I couldn't change her mind that way. That was soon followed by tears and yelling and doors slamming. Eventually, it was forgotten and we found something else to argue about, like how much she hated my hair, or why I skipped my chores to hang out with my girlfriends. Ironically, the first Black man I ever dated was someone my Dad introduced me to.

My mother was nurtured into racial bigotry by many of the people around her. She grew up on a farm with her parents and three brothers in northern Wisconsin. When I was little, we would spend a few weeks there every summer. During meals and other gatherings, I’d hear words that I never heard at home. Some of them I didn’t understand, but I knew they weren’t good. I knew that it was bad to be a Spic, a Chink, a Jap, a Queer, a Libber and a Pinko Commie. I also heard my uncles say the word nigger even though that was a really bad word. And, I got confused about why they didn’t like Jews because in Sunday School we read stories about Jesus. If Jesus, his Mom and Dad (Joe), and all his friends were Jews, how could it be bad to be Jewish? I also learned that Catholics were bad because they were practically cannibals (The whole body and blood communion thing . . . you had to ask!). Mostly, I ignored the adults at these times. However, when my Grandpa talked, you couldn’t ignore him.

My Grandpa would get tired of listening to my uncles rant about all the people they hated. He’d tell them to shut the hell up. Then he’d say what the real problem was. It was the government and those goddamn politicians. He said the word goddamn better than anyone else in the whole world. The thing that made my Grandpa worth listening to, was that, in between the goddamns and the cocksuckers and the goddamn cocksuckers, there was a bit of logic and reason. He didn’t seem to feel threatened by people who were different. At least he didn’t talk about it. He did however feel threatened by people who threatened him, like the . . . "goddamn cocksuckers in Washington trying to take everything away from the people and make themselves rich."

My Mom isn’t like the people she came from, except maybe her Dad (although she doesn’t cuss quite as much). By the time I left for college, I saw changes in my parents, especially my Mom. They had traveled and met new and different people. They met and worked with different people in their community. They read more and looked at things differently. By the time I graduated from college, I saw even more changes in their view of the world. However, they weren’t done yet. Eventually they’d have to think of the children.

When their first Black grandson was born in 1994, there was a whole new level of change. Then, grandsons number two and three followed. My nephews are the most beautiful, talented, smart boys I’ve ever met. Since their father took our name when he married my sister, they even share my parent’s name. This is particularly relevant because my Dad was an orphan. We, and our children, are the legacy of his survival.

You should see my parents with their Grandchildren. They’d do anything to make the world exactly perfect for all of them. When Grandparents fall in Love the way my folks did with these kids, it’s something amazing to see.
They aren't done dealing with their -isms, and neither am I, but things are a whole lot different now than when I was a kid.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Goodbye Rosa Parks. You were an inspiration to all Hot Chiks!


23 Comments:

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Leesa said...

Loved your blog entry today.

 
At 7:53 AM, Blogger Laurie said...

i grew up in a household run by archie bunker. and i was meathead.

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger Sunney said...

Like you, my parents laid down the law about dating "black boys" and what would happen if I "turned gay". Thankfully, to some extent, they've gotten over that. And thankfully, that dose of ignorance made me a bit wiser.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger theresa said...

Leesa - Thanks

Laurie - The visual of you battling Archie is making me laugh!

Sunney - The gay issues were a terrific ride. I remember the time my parents asked me if I thought my sister was gay because she was shy about boys. In fact, she's the straightest arrow amongst us. At the time, my brother was dating one of my ex-girl friends. At least I could look them in the eye and say, "I'd have sex with a girl before K would."

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger ZooooM said...

As usual, you have the talent for taking a subject and wrapping it up in one heck of a gripping little story.

My mom was raised Amish. There are all kinds of things we still discuss to this day. Considering everything she's been through, I'm proud of her ability to open up her mind as much as bearable [to her] and let things change. It wasn't ever easy.

And don't you love how kids can sometimes just cross huge obsticals just by being kids? My mom melts especially fast where any child is concerned.

Thank you for this post. It's something I've dealt with, I guess we all have, and I could never put it in writing this well.

Z

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Bougie Black Boy said...

Very intriguing post. Glad to see this "side" of you and have you express it to your readers. You not only amaze me with your ability to strive toward social change, but apparantly you seem to be proactive in doing so with your writings for all races, genders alike.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger littlefeet said...

first: i want that sticker on my car... :)

second: awesome story...i love it that your BIL changed his name to give a legacy to your father...that is totally kick ass...

peace...

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Tiger said...

ryn: no need to tell me--sometimes there are not "words" and I think I know what you're saying without having to say it. :)
My voice was stuck for a very long time. I anticipate that it will, at some point in the future--stick again.
There's power in speaking up and speaking out though.
Yeah?
Maybe enough power that you can jump start & let the energy of it UnStick your own?
(((soft hugs)))

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Blazngfyre said...

WOW! Great post!

My Dad didn't have issues with me dating men from different races.
Walter's family did.
His Mother did not approve of him dating a white girl.

It was a very eye-opening experience.
To say the least.


I too think it's cool that your BIL took your family's name.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger Tiger said...

(it does take an enormous amount of courage though, I will agree)
...the "it only works when it's open" thing.

...right...

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Zoooom - Thanks, Sweetie!Your Mom sounds really interesting. I can only imagine the challenges of learning to accept differences when you spent your formative years being sheltered from such things.

Stephen - Are you suggesting I'm more than a brazen, sassy, sex-pot? Say it isn't so!

Monkey - If I find the sticker, I'll let you know.

As far as the BIL goes, I'd like to say he had honorable intentions. His choice to change his name had to do with an attempt to leave his old life behind. Unfortunately, he wasn't very successful.

Tiger - Thanks. It was a really rough night.

And, yeah ... opening the mind means the likelihood of changes, or worse, admitting you've been wrong. It's not for the weak and timid.

Blaze - You weren't the first white girl or boy who had that experience, I'm sure.

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Bougie Black Boy said...

yeah you're more than that. you're damn sexy too. :)

 
At 12:56 AM, Blogger Unsane said...

I think I could be black.

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger Al said...

I think I was probably very lucky - My mom and dad had friends of all races, religions and persuations. They thought that it was important to learn as much as you can about everyone. My dad used to say - It's a big world. When I was very young, we had an elderly couple that were next-door neighbors and Holaucast survivors. Even though we're Catholic (bless me father, for I have sinned, it's been like decades since I've been to confession) They brought us over to learn about Hannuaka, Satre and Passover, Roshasanna and Yom Kiper. I think that Hearing first-hand accounts of the Halocaust really effected the way I look at the world. My parents's had several close friends who were/are black - many I looked at as more family members than friends of my folks. I still remember going to a AME service as youngster and that version of "Amazing Grace" were much different (yah better, too) than what I was used to hearing. My parent's parties were a virtual United Nations get- togethers. My father worked in radio and had serval employees and employers who were gay - I never heard anything derogatory about their orrientation . I never heard any slurs in the household, When we moved to Florida - I heard words & phrases that I had never heard, It kinda freaked my out. There were centain people that I went to school with that I was not allowed to hang out with - not because of their color or religion - but more their ignorance.
I fact, my mom used to say that ignorance is a disease spread from Parent to child.
When I went to work in radio, I worked at an urban formatted station. I was only one of two white employees in the programming Dept. It didn't bother me - I never saw a difference in color. One of my college professors couldn't believe it. So ignorance is not only passed from parent to child but from teacher to student.
We can always find racism, sexism, and other ism's. The question is - what are we doing to combat it and find a cure for the disease.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Beautiful!
I love that I am now able to educate and influence my parents.
When I was young, I agreed with everything they said...as I got older I created my own opinions...I was more open-minded then they were. Now, they have witnessed how I live and they embrace me and most of my ideals.

 
At 3:01 AM, Blogger kelebek }{ said...

The more ya know....
Thank you for the kind words that you left on my blog. My life got turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Maybe one day I'll actually write about it. But for now thanks for what you said...
kelebek }{

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Georgiapeach said...

That was an absolutely beautiful post. It was very captivating. Thanks so much for sharing that story.

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger AndyT13 said...

Intersting stuff. I've dated black women and asian women a few times.
My parents would have shit bricks if I had brought them home but I never had to deal with it since they never seemed to last very long. Bah. I have no patience for bigotry. Being a jerk (or not) has nothing to do with what you look like and everything to do with who you are. Hey T? How come no HNT from you? Let's have some GF! :-)
<3 Love <3
A

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Stephen - *blushing*

Unsane - It's good to have goals

Al - What a cool life. Now I not only want to meet your fantastic wife, I also want to meet your parents!

Julie - I can see why your parents think you're someone to learn from.

Kelebek }{ - I'm glad you're doing better. It sounded like an awful situation.

Georgiapeach - Thank you.

Andy13 - Hmmm, I'll think on that one. I actually have another titilating plan to reveal more of my Love Goddess self, but it's taking a while to get going.

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Theresa, things have changed here in the midwest. Though I occasionally hear language of racism from the few of my uneducated friends, I have found an effective means to promote change by setting good examples in daily life.

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Storm Rider said...

I am a half breed of Sioux and Welch blood, I was raised with my Ntive beleifs and customs.
Long ago , me and another half breed went to Casper Wyoming, at the one end of town was the white bars and at the other end was the Indian bars.
We went to the Indian bar and got our asses kicked up one side and then the other for being breeds.
Then we went to the white bar and got our already pumetted ass's kicked again for not being white!
Some days it pays to just go to the seven-11 and drink alone!

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Popeye said...

Yeah, I'm going to miss Ms. Parks, too. Lovely post.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger Maverick said...

I see from your grandfather's words that the gov't hasn't changed at all

For the rest, maybe it's that as we age we care less about what other people think and realize what life and happiness is really about

Spitting in a Wishing Well

 

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