Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 26

Day 26 - A picture of something that means a lot to you.

This may seem like a silly thing to you--but there is something in this picture that means a great deal to me. The two women who stood up for me at my wedding are two of the most amazing women I know. Of all the women I could have chosen to stand up with me, they were choice #1 & #2. I should state here that considering where I spent my childhood, the genetic make-up of these women could have been very, VERY different. It means so much to me that the two most important women in my life are women of color--more than I can ever explain verbally. You see, as a child I grew up in one of the most racist communities around, heard the N-word almost daily, and had a few teachers that were known members of the Klan. Yes, THAT Klan.

(Shakespearean aside: I know it always sounds weird when a white girl takes any time or paper-space to describe how she feels about racism. I know I always start the eye-roll parade whenever I hear anyone as pale as I am talking about it. So, feel free to eye-roll along. I won't be offended.)

Southern Indiana is…well, its…it’s a place in which I never wish to live again. While I have some pleasant and bucolic childhood memories, I also have a handful of ugly memories, caused by the people who populated that small klannish town. (now, not all Southern Indy is all bad--the bigger cities aren't quite as…well, let's just say they don’t hang ropes from trees, k?) In fact, the fact that I did not become a rabid racist, as my neighbors traditionally became, has to do with the fortitude of my mother, who strove to fight the times in which she grew up to raise me differently. As her parents did. That isn't to say she didn't have her own biases or predjudices. She did. As her parents did. But here's the thing--WE ALL DO. All we can do is raise your kids to be to not carry your personal issues, then we are one step closer to equality.

I was not popular in my childhood town. Turns out, it didn't help to be poor. Or be friends with one of the only African American girls in town. I was tarred with a number of epithets discounting my own heritage and loyalty. (who exactly I was supposed to be loyal to was beyond me). I know my mom took some shit for letting me "hang around that colored girl"--and that was the "nice" phrase. But I can rightly say that as a younger kid, I never really understood it. And as I grew older, I understood it, but thought it was stupid. It made me angry. But my friend's parents taught me some vital lessons about rising above it--as they had to, DAILY. I strove to maintain that cool detachment that they exhibited. Didn't always work.

Moving out to CA helped. But don't fool yourself that racism doesn't exist out here. Hell, half the people out here (including myself obviously) are not FROM here. There is only one native Californian in this household. Ok, two if you count the dog. Anyway, the anti-"mexican" sentiment around here (at least in SoCal) is pretty stiff. And the rhetoric is only getting stronger. As a student of history, you always see this kind of nativist behavior in times of trouble. During the great Depression, immigrant labor was villified just like it is now. I wonder that those with the loudest voices haven't just gone back to the 30's to pick up some slogans. Its amazing to me how ANGRY people get when others don’t' speak "English" around them. As liberal as CA is, the anti-Hispanic sentiment is frankly a little frightening to me. And reminds me of Indiana more often than not.

So, I am grateful for my upbringing that allowed me to view a world full of wondrous diversity. I am happy that I do not carry around much of the baggage of past generations' fears, that allows me to traverse racial planes to discover beautiful cultures everywhere around me. (not to mention the abundance of Mexican and Thai restaurants) And I look forward into "shedding" more of that baggage in the raising of my own son. In my own generation, I have seen an African American elected president and an Hispanic woman appointed to the supreme court. Among other wonders.

Is racism over? Hardly. But what I dig more than anything is that we can see it in it's death throes--that's how I view all this vitriol we see now. My son will know a world more equitable than my own. And should he have children, it will be even ore equitable than his. THAT means more to me than any bill or law. That my own grandchildren or great grandchildren may not even have to waste time on this nonsense, and it will simply be something in the history books, like the Cold War and Westward Expansion.

Of course, by then, they might have extra terrestrial life to deal with, and the whole thing might just start all over again...