It has taken me several weeks to decide to write this post for a variety of reasons. I needed to do some introspection as to my own attitudes when it comes to race and my own “racist” feelings. I wanted to write a post that could give a fair assessment of what I feel. And some of the back story that has influenced my feelings. Experiences both good and bad form many of our feelings about those of different races. Especially when we are children. Input from our parents and society as we develop creates the “tracks” we repeat and think when it comes to race. When we are older we can think through these “recordings” and try to change the way we think and how we perceive the world, but it can be difficult. I know this is true as I get older and I try to grapple with the ghosts of my past and the experiences that have left “recordings” that I am not always happy with. In my mind I wish to become a more educated and reasonable person especially in terms of race and different religions. I have had a lot of experience in these areas, but still have things I need to “learn”. During the last few weeks I have determined that I know where my anger comes from and why I feel the way I do about certain subjects. As people comment I am sure that I will receive negative comments. That is okay. Changing is hard and part of changing is hearing hard “truths” and telling hard “truths”.
I was born in the 60’s and had parents who worked in the civil rights movement and marched with Martin Luther King. My father did some, but I have to admit my mother was the real driving force in the family when it came to instilling the civil rights message to us kids. At least I remember her discussing it with me frequently. From the time I was 8 years old and older she would discuss these issues with me. I was her sounding board of sorts.I understood her passion on the subject. She was always one to try and stand up for the underdog for the repressed. Even though she herself suffered terribly from a bad domestic situation and her own issues.
When I was around 11 or 12 she started bringing a black man around the house. She had started dating him and they were actually together off and on for many years. She also dated men from India. She had a particular fascination for the culture. She was a Sociologist/Anthropologist and specialized in the Hindu culture. During the early 70’s a woman dating a man of “color” was a no, no. Especially in Connecticut. We were immediately ostracized by our neighbors and when I went to school I was teased mercilessly. The first year of high school I had guys approach me and proposition me. Asking me if I would “date” them and how much did I “cost” since my Mom was a prostitute so was I. I told them she wasn’t and they said any white woman who dates a black man is a whore and that means you are a whore. This man she dated had “issues” and molested me when I was 11 or 12. She had him arrested, but still saw him away from the house. She told me later the only reason that she had him arrested was to get him treatment for his mental health issues. I hated her for that for the longest time.
I wish I could say that I came out of all of this unscathed. I didn’t. I couldn’t even think of having a black man touch me or person of color touch me for that matter. I felt horrible about it because intellectually I knew it was stupid and there was no difference, and they were not “him” but I just couldn’t. There are other things that happened to me that added to all of this, but that is for another time, another story. I eventually did grow out of most of this and I have had some very good friends of all races; Black, Filipino, Mexican, Asian. Wonderful, intelligent, talented human beings. One of the best people I ever knew that Mom dated was named Leroy. He was a black man who was a fire dancer. He was actually very good. He was bisexual, mostly homosexual, but he and my mother did love one another. More as friends toward the end of his life, but he was a very kind and generous person and the first black man that I felt completely comfortable hugging me and that wasn’t until my late 20’s. He and I talked about what had happened to me and he was so kind and understanding about it and he never judged me for how I was feeling.
I have a friend named Saleemah who I met in the Navy. Writing this reminds me I need to give her a call and say hello. She is black and is a Muslim. She is someone I truly admire. She went from being a Cardiovascular Technician in the Navy to being a Physician’s Assistant. I guess what i am trying to say is that I truly feel that I have made huge strides in my feelings toward race. Much of it having to do with my mother’s early teachings and using intellect and reason to truly look at what drives my feelings towards those of other races. I have my faults still and hear the underlying “tracks” from my early life come through what I am “recording” now, but I am working on erasing them.
Okay here are some of my beliefs and why I have issues with some things concerning Black and White relations:
1. In no way am I naive enough to believe that everything is hunky dory for the black community. I know there are still big hurdles to overcome when it comes to relations between the races.
2. I believe in equality for all people. That means ALL.
3. I do not believe that slavery of any kind should be tolerated. It is an abomination to God and scourge to all mankind.
4. I do not believe that the color of our skin defines us as human beings or as individuals. Our worth should be defined by who we are and what we do to others.
5. I know that if I was to meet a black man or a man of color and I was not married I know that I could have a relationship with him. (This is something relatively new for me and any reservations I may still have has more to do with what happened to me when I was a child.)
6. I do not believe in reparations.I have earned everything that I have on my own. I did not receive special scholarships, there were no special “white” people programs. If anything I experienced discrimination of different kinds due to being poor and having a mother who dated men of other races, and she was white during Affirmative Action implementation. She lost her job, a woman with a Master’s Degree in Sociology and Anthropology to a black woman who worked with Social Services, but had no other education. The black woman was given a scholarship and the job on condition that she finished her degree. My mother came home crying. She told me I had to understand that sacrifices were going to have to be made in order to make things right for the black community. But she was afraid because she had her own children to feed. She couldn’t get food stamps because she made a dollar too much. That was the only time I saw her angry about the race issue. She said if she was black or Latino she would have been given aid.Affirmative Action was needed. It served a purpose. It spurred new laws to help diminish discrimination in the workplace. Laws that were necessary and right. It didn’t make us any less hungry. It took her years to get another job that would allow her to provide somewhat decently for her family. The black community was no kinder at times to us because she was a white woman who dated a black man. They thought she was a whore as much as the white people did.
The other thing about reparations is that if black people can claim reparations so can the Native Americans and so can the Irish who were sold into slavery by the English to the colonists. I was called a “Whiner” by another poster on another blog when I brought up the fact that there were white slaves as well and that I had family that were essentially “slaves”. The Irish were first sold into slavery by James II to the colonists.
“”From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.”” (The Irish Slave Trade-The forgotten “White slaves” by John Martin, see link)
The link below describes the situation. Why is it that black people get upset when we remind them that there were white slaves that were treated even worse than black slaves because they were of less “value” than the African slaves? Do they think that admitting that there were others that suffered worse than the black slaves diminishes in any way what happened to their ancestors? Or by admitting such a thing they would have to admit that they are not the only ones who should be entitled to reparations and that it would take away their “special” place in history as a down trodden people? It does and it doesn’t. I have ancestors on my father’s side that were “indentured servants” a nice word for slaves. Should I ask for reparations from England for centuries of slavery of my ancestral people? I asked someone that on a blog site and they said I was a racist and missed the point? Ummmm NOT! Slavery and denigration of the human spirit has no limitation in skin color.
What about the blacks who owned slaves? They were a small percentage, but they existed. One of the richest women in the civil war era was a black woman in Louisiana I believe who owned her own plantation and over 170 slaves. Yes, some black slave owners bought their own family members to protect them, but there were more that bought and treated slaves no differently than their white counterparts. Sin is sin it also knows no skin color. Are you going to research these families and ask for reparations from them? And what about the Africans who would go out and war against tribes, defeat them and then sell those they defeated into slavery. This was the primary source of African slaves. Do you ask them for reparations?
If there were any race of people that I feel should receive reparations it should be the Native Americans. The systematic Genocide and destruction of an entire culture of people for “Manifest Destiny” is the shame that America was built upon, even before slavery became entrenched in this country. And the sooner America truly comes to terms with that fact instead of glossing it over, the better it will be for all of us. The Native American people ask only for what is owed them per the original treaties, heck we would owe them Manhattan and a couple of states, yet they do not ask for reparations. There is no reparation that will wipe away what was done to their people. Honoring what promises are in place and moving on is what needs to be done. I found an article that describes how Hitler used the what happened to the Native Americans as a guide to the Jewish Holocaust.
The Chinese that were brought to work on the railroad, while they “volunteered” were locked into contracts that made them virtual slaves.
No one handed me anything. I was raised by a Grandmother who taught me a work ethic. Do not expect anything from anyone. Work and Earn what you have. Asking people now to pay reparations for all that time ago is only going to cause more hard feelings. That is all I expect from people. Work for what you have. Do not expect a handout. I know where some of my anger comes into play is the fact that I and my family did suffer from the affects of Affirmative Action, racism and prejudice. And yet I and my family members worked hard and made our way. We succeeded from hard work. I cannot and will not say that I owe anyone anything. I do not nor do the majority of Americans that are alive today. We had nothing to do with what happened all those years ago. There are things that we can do as a race today that can help to heal the wounds though.
7. I believe in teaching our children the horrible history of slavery, the genocide of the Native American, the forgotten slave trade of the Irish and essential slavery of immigrants from Asia. We should teach them about the accomplishments of those of color in our nation. We need to teach our children and each other to have empathy and compassion for all people and to value their contributions in the making of this great nation as a whole. Everyone’s contributions. This nation was not founded and it did not succeed upon the back of the white man only. No matter what anyone says. All due credit should be given in our history books to those black people and others who have made great contributions to our country. Such as the first open heart surgery was performed by a black surgeon. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. He needs to be in the medical books and in the history books. He does not get the credit he deserves.
I have included a link to a page that lists several notable black entrepreneurs and inventors throughout history in America.
What I know needs to be done is to educate all of us on how to get along and how to empower each other as human beings. It is not fair for the black community to disparage those of their race that have succeeded using the opportunities that have been opened to them. I read a blog post earlier this month that basically called black people that raise themselves up economically as being sell outs in a manner of speaking. Oprah and a few others like her were on a list of “Uncle Tom’s”. What a load &*$^$^. I knew of a black boy who was “forced” to get lower grades because there were other black kids around him who told him he was selling out if he used the “white man’s” system to get ahead. I was dumb founded because that is so stupid. He eventually studied on his own and graduated early to get away from it. My son was harassed at one high school and we had to move because he refused to get lower grades than the black boys that were in his classroom and they were failing. He was threatened with being beaten if he didn’t. We ended up moving to get him away from that school.
My father quit teaching because he was teaching at a private school and there was a black girl attending. She would not take her tests, would not hand in her homework. My father thought she was very smart and didn’t understand at first what she was doing. It became clear when he gave her a failing grade because she didn’t do the work. She went home, told her parents my father was a racist and was discriminating against her. My father was told by the school to give her a passing grade and my father refused, chewed out the school board and the parents because they were enabling her; Teaching her that she could pull the race card to get what she didn’t earn. He quit that day and never went back to teaching I had wondered why because he loved teaching. After he died I found some notes he had made on the incident in his teaching journal.
This same person who called me a “whiner” also said that I basically didn’t know what I was talking about and that I needed to get a life and if I really wanted to do something I would do something about the problem instead of being a part of it. Well, this is what got me thinking all of this time. There are times that I have responded to posts concerning race in a reactionary way and I need to keep a cool and level head and make an informed, rational and fair comment. I know there are still loads of problems that white people need to overcome in race issues. What I can do is to confront issues of race and inequality. I can call people out when they act in a racist manner. I can continually work on my perceptions and how I deal with people of other races, especially black people. Again I think that feelings that I have concerning certain issues have to do with what happened to me as a child.
I have decided not to write about things I think the black community needs to do to improve their situation themselves. I don’t know enough. Most my opinions have been formed by the media and impressions from others. So, I need to do more research. I would truly like to be part of the solution and not the problem and I promise I will work on that.
America and Americans have been getting quite a bit of flack lately. We are self-absorbed, imperialist, meddling, pigs. Perhaps that is true, but that is not all we are. We are capable of great compassion and generosity. We are capable of arguing and discussing and working on problems. Tough problems. Problems that involve human rights and civil liberties. We have changed so much and I truly feel that as long as these topics, especially the race topic is discussed there is the potential for change and reform. We can all work together to accomplish this. One of the things I remember from my mother’s discussion is her absolute belief in the message of Martin Luther King and other Civil rights workers. We need to respect each other for being human beings regardless of color. That there was and is potential for a much better future for all of us.