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View Diary: Meet the Extraordinary Men Who Kept Me From Becoming a Racist (65 comments)

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  •  My parents hid their vestigal racism from us (3+ / 0-)
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    bontemps2012, Steve Canella, jplanner

    when we were children. I have no idea how or if they made a conscious decision to do so. Like an idiot, I let them die without asking them point-blank about it.

    My dad was raised in central Texas, joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, and spent most of his career in southern California and DC. My mom was raised in New Orleans, married him just after the war, at age 18. I have to think that getting out of the South, at such a young age, and into the great diversity of SoCal, made the difference for them. Never did they utter a racist sentiment or racial epithet within my hearing, not even after I was grown; it simply was not their way. Nor did they teach me racial stereotyping. (Once I was in my 20s, my dad began allowing me to see his prejudices, and my mom revealed her belief that Jews completely controlled Hollywood and the banks.)

    So I was totally unprepared at 18 when my mom gave me The Talk the day before I went off to college. She told me to enjoy myself, meet new people, work hard, be careful, etc., etc., etc., bzzz bzzzz bzzzz.... [yeah yeah yeah mom]... whatever you do, do NOT bring a black man into this house."

    I felt like I'd been electrocuted. I laughed at her, then I saw her eyes, hard and fierce. I became angry, told her I could not believe what she was saying, and she assured me she meant it 100%. I tried to cajole her and she would not budge.

    THIS from the woman who had taught me that it is impossible to look another person in the eye, no matter their color or class or country, and not see that we are both human and exactly the same; and that this is why despots, slaveholders, ignorant Mississippi racists, etc., throughout history have punished and even killed "inferiors" who dared look them in the eye.

    THIS from the woman who, having moved away to young married life in late '40s SoCal, moved back to New Orleans while my Navy dad went off to sea duty, and spent a few months in an apartment her aunt rented for her, an apartment cleaned by a middle-aged black woman (whose name I cannot remember right now). One day, as the cleaning woman was eating lunch in the kitchen, my mom came in, made a sandwich, and sat down across the table from her. The woman jumped up from the table with such force that she knocked her chair over, looking around in fear to see if anyone else had seen what had happened, apologizing profusely for daring to sit at the table with a white lady. My mom stood up, too, apologizing just as profusely because living in SoCal with so many military people of all different kinds, she'd forgotten The Rules. She invited the woman to sit down so they could share a meal together like two sensible adult women, and so they did.

    I took up with a man of Scots and Lithuanian heritage, with long sun-bleached white-blond hair [shout out to ex#1 ;D]. My mom worked >20 years in a social services job with many black coworkers and managers, and grew out of her childhood inculcation (in her last years even morphed into a liberal Democrat, gawdamighty). That left my dad as the family holdout, so when my sister married a man with skin the color of Michelle Obama's, they hid their marriage from both families for 4 months. As it turned out, dying of cancer was teaching my dad what does and does not matter in life, he admitted as much to the not-quite-newlyweds, and welcomed his new son-in-law into the family.


    by raincrow on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:25:32 AM PST

    •  cool story. My parents somewhat similar (1+ / 0-)
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      they taught us purposely it seemed to be color blind and that all people were of equal value.
      yet when my sister went to her prom with an African American boy my dad had a conniption. They were just friends.

      I think when it comes to family (after all in my parent's day you're 18 and dating it might mean you would marry that person!) long imbeded feelings trump reason.

      I guess they had the instilled racism but conciously decided to overcome it. They intellectually knew what was right but fear overwhelemed them.

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