Showing posts with label race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label race. Show all posts

(Gently) Pushing Buttons

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm used to being the OBITR (Only Black In The Room). It happens all the time. Depending on the situation, occasionally I take my position very seriously and use it to raise awareness of an issue, challenge a perception or present another way of thinking. I feel as though I've been talking about race a lot lately, but it's been all around me in posts, books I've read and discussions I've had so it's been on my mind a lot. Most recently I had to educate my book club friends a little bit. [warning: book spoiler alerts]

The last title we read for book club was The Hunger Games. In the first part of the evening while we having dinner, almost everyone was talking about the books (most went on to read the other two right away). The comments were all about how much they loved the series and were excited to hear all the casting news for the movie. After dinner we talked about the current book, The Kitchen House.

All of us loved this book, too. It's set on a tobacco plantation in the south. The story is told through two narrators. One is Lavinia, an Irish indentured servant whose parents die on the trip over from Ireland. Her brother is sold to a different owner and she lives the first years of her life on the plantation with the slaves. The other narrator, Belle, is one of the slaves on the plantation. She works in the kitchen house and her connection to the plantation owner causes problems for everyone throughout most of the book. 

As the conversation went on, someone said they typically don't like to read books with a lot of tragedy and violence in them and said she was glad the author, Kathleen Grissom, didn't get too descriptive with the treatment of the slaves because she probably wouldn't have liked the book as much. Many others agreed.

Now, if you've read The Hunger Games series, you might be shaking your head. If you haven't read them, let me explain the premise: Every year, the ruling class of a post apocalyptic dystopian society, The Capitol, hosts The Hunger Games. The games are a punishment for the lower classes' previous attempted rebellion.  The Capitol creates an outdoor arena with all types of hazards and then forces 24 children chosen at random to fight to the death in the arena on live TV.

I had to take a moment because it struck me as odd. In The Hunger Games, half the contests die at each others' hands in the first few moment's of the games. Through the rest of the book there are poisonous plants, wasps whose venom either kills or brings on hallucinations, knives to the back, rocks to the skull and death by spear. And that's only in the first half of the first book!

So, reading about teenagers killing each other or dying violently as sport for the rich is fine, but slaves being whipped, burned or hung is just too much? As OBITR, I felt I needed to (gently) point out what I saw as a hypocrisy*. I said I was glad Grissom didn't try to clean up what happened to slaves. 

"I think it's sad authors have to dumb down the type of violence blacks experienced at the hands of their owners and make it more palatable in order for people to want to educate themselves about the time period."

Yep, I went there.

I can only presume the woman who made the original statement was thinking that Hunger Games is pure fiction, whereas The Kitchen House is fiction based in factual events. For the record she also said she couldn't watch Schindler's List for the same reason. I guess I just can't imagine avoiding certain topics because of their truth. In my mind, it's the truthfulness that leads to empathy. I'm not Jewish, but the little I know about the Holocaust made me want to learn more about the difference between Judaism and Catholicism. 

In my opinion, The Kitchen House isn't overly graphic. I think the events in the book are part of the characters' truth, and the truth is they were slaves on a plantation. Bad (beyond horrible) things happened to slaves on plantations. To ignore that, to leave it out of the story wouldn't have been an accurate representation of the south during that time.

My fellow book club members' response struck me as the literary equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears. "La, la, la, la I can't hear you." Which everyone has a right to do.

My statement was well received. Not that I care about that too much but I don't want to make book club awkward. I enjoy my time there but don't want to be "that person" who turns every conversation into controversy. I can only hope I gave everyone something to think about. Omitting details or downplaying them doesn't make them any less true.

Do you feel the same way as my club member about the books you read? Is there such a thing as too real?

*Hypocrisy is probably too strong of a word but I couldn't think of better one. Photo from Google Images Blew My Mind

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

family treephoto © 2007 Rick Audet | more info (via: Wylio) has been doing heavy TV advertising on some of the networks I watch regularly. I know a few people who have used Ancestry and have enjoyed it. Personally, I haven't had much interest in digging into my family history. I mean, I want to know, but I don't want to know; if you know what I mean.

When I first started seeing the commercials, I got really jaded. I don't know where it came from. The conversations in my head went something like this:

Thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather not see written evidence of how my family was probably split up and I definitely don't want to know who owned my great, great grandparents. But thank you anyway.

It got to the point where I'd change the channel when the commercial came on. It seems so irrational and silly, but it's true. I'd get this little ball of anger in the pit of my stomach. I know I could spend several weeks on a therapists' couch to figure out where all those feelings came from! 

I do get angsty and bitter during Black History Month so I'm sure there were some residual feelings from there. Call me crazy, but the mental images I get when I think of African Americans and trees aren't the kind to inspire me to log onto their site.

But then I saw another commercial and my whole perspective changed. This one had an African American man as the actor. He said pretty much what I had been thinking, only politely. Then, at the end of the commercial, he said something along the lines of, "sure, I saw that my grandfather came here as a slave. But I also saw that he ended up a business owner."


My mind? It was blown.

In that one sentence, Ancestry managed to completely change how I felt about the site. I'd been thinking of it from a totally negative viewpoint. I had such big blinders on, I couldn't even see the positives. Who knows what kind of information I could find if I were ever to dig into our family history?! It can't all be bad, right?

I guess I should say thank you to Ancestry. I always appreciate a good swift kick in the arse and being forced to re-think previous misconceptions. ETA: Heather's comment below reminded of something I meant to put in my post which is to commend Ancestry for recognizing there might be a need for that kind of commercial message and handling it in such a compassionate (though realistic) manner.

Who or what has kicked you in the arse before?

*This is not a sponsored post. I tried to find the actual commercial on You Tube but couldn't. If you find it please leave a link!

My Kid Told a Racist Joke: Advice Needed

Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm so upset right now I don't know what to do. Tyler got in the car after school saying he had a joke to tell me.

"An American, a Canadian and a Mexican get on a plane."

As soon as he got the words out I bristled. I knew where he was going and I wasn't happy. I'd not heard the joke before but there's no way a joke that starts out like that is going to be good.

He finished as we pulled into the driveway. I put the car in park and, I'll admit, I lit into him a bit. I kept my voice calm but he could tell I was very angry. I told him jokes like that are not OK, not appropriate and he's never to repeat it.

I asked him to substitute a white person, black person and an Asian in the joke. Was it still funny? Did he still think it was OK to repeat?

I asked him if he'd heard the words racist or racism. He hadn't so I explained their definitions. I talked about Columbus, slavery and immigration. I didn't get too deep into those issues since he's only 8, but the examples I used from TV we've watched were things he could relate to and understand.

I told him what I was most angry about, that a joke like that is making its way around the playground. I told him I was angry at the situation, not at him. He told me which friend he heard the joke from. It's a little boy he had a playdate with a few weeks ago. Tyler said the boy heard the joke from someone else. I believe him. I don't think he's devious enough to make that up on the spot to protect his friend.

My dilemma is, should I call this boys mother and tell her what her son is saying? I know that, for the boys, the joke was funny because someone gets punched in the face, not because of its undertones. As kids they just hear the slapstick. But it's something I would want to know about. How do I even begin a conversation like that?

If someone you only met once called you with this information, how would you take it? I want to be clear that I'm not accusing her son of being a racist, merely passing on the information. I don't want to put any strain on the boys' friendship. But, I hate to think of the (blond haired, light eyed) boy telling the joke again around someone some of the older kids and having one of them call him out. I hope I'd be opening the door for Tyler's friend and his parents to have a conversation about acceptance. What if it backfires?

Would you call the other mom? Has another parent ever called you with something like this? Have you ever made a phone call like this? HELP!

Standing Out in A Crowd

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Driving to meet some friends this morning I had a moment that is kind of common (for me anyway) in my suburban part of San Diego. A group of ladies were out for some exercise. I drove past and said to myself, "oh wow, black people!" And what's more, they were faces I haven't seen around town before.

There is one black woman I see quite often in my area between 8-9am. She must walk the same route because I can almost draw an 'X' on the sidewalk where our paths cross. She was not part of the group I saw this morning, which makes it all the more intriguing. Where do they live? How long have they been here that I haven't seen them before? When you're uncommon, it's easy to spot someone else who looks like you.

Since I started going to school I've almost always been the only black face in the class and one of few in the school. It got better in junior high and high school. College was an eye opener. But there are times when being a minority within a minority can be a little lonely.

Make no mistake, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I'm happy with the decision to move here. It reminds me a lot of where we moved when my family left Chicago. I still love that area and, as a parent, I'm happy I can give Tyler the same type of suburban experience I had growing up. But, I'd be lying if I said I didn't wonder how, if at all, our lives would be different if we lived somewhere else.

I didn't pull over and introduce myself this morning. I would have come off like a lunatic. But, if the women are new to the area, perhaps over time we'll run into each other more and more often and I'll be out walking with them one day, too.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Honor and Remember

Monday, January 17, 2011

This is an excerpt of a speech Dr. King gave on April 10, 1957 in St. Louis Missouri.

A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations 
I bring you greetings from Montgomery, Alabama, a city that has been known over the years as the Cradle of the Confederacy. But I bring you special greetings from the fifty-thousand Negroes of that city who came to see a little more than a year ago that it is ultimately more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. 

I bring you greetings from fifty-thousand people who decided one day to substitute tired feet for tired souls and walk the streets of Montgomery until the sagging walls of segregation were finally crushed by the battering rams of surging justice. I bring you greetings from a humble people who heard the words of Jesus and decided to follow him, even if it meant going to Calvary. A people who decided that love is a basic principle of the universe.

But I didn't come here this evening to talk only about Montgomery. I want to try to grapple with a question that continually comes to me. And it is a question on the lips of men and women all over this nation. People all over are wondering about the question of progress in race relations. And they are asking, "Are we really making any progress?" I want to try to answer that question. And if I would use a subject for what I plan to say this evening, I would use a rather lengthy subject: A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations.

There are three basic attitudes that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations. And the first attitude that can be taken is that of extreme optimism. Now the extreme optimist would argue that we have come a long, long way in the area of race relations. He would point proudly to the marvelous strides that have been made in the area of civil rights over the last few decades. From this he would conclude that the problem is just about solved, and that we can sit comfortably by the wayside and wait on the coming of the inevitable.

The second attitude that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations is that of extreme pessimism. The extreme pessimist would argue that we have made only minor strides in the area of race relations. He would argue that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent that we hear from the Southland today is indicative of the fact that we have created more problems than we have solved. 

He would say that we are retrogressing instead of progressing. He might even turn to the realms of an orthodox theology and argue that hovering over every man is the tragic taint of original sin and that at bottom human nature can not be changed. He might even turn to the realms of modern psychology and seek to show the determinative effects of habit structures and the inflexibility of certain attitudes that once become molded in one's being. From all of this he would conclude that there can be no progress in the area of race relations.

Now you will notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist have at least one thing in common: they both agree that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible. But there is a third position that is another attitude that can be taken, and it is what I would like to call the realistic position. 

The realist in the area of race relations seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both. So the realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But, he would go on to balance that by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go. And it is this basic theme that I would like to set forth this evening. We have come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 (source: Library of Congress)photo © 2006 Mike Licht | more info (via: Wylio)
So, where do I stand? Which attitude do I have? I'd say I'm a realistic pessimist with optimistic leanings. I can't ignore how far we've come because that would be disrespectful to all the people who have helped get us here. But I also see how far we need to go.

I see it on the news and in the TV shows I watch. I read it in the newspaper, on Twitter and in blog posts. I hear it in casual comments.

Fifty four years after this speech, we're still saying we have a long way to go. I wonder if, in my lifetime, we'll ever be able to say, "we've come a long way," and have that be the end of the sentence.

Read Dr. King's speech in its entirety here.

Study Examines Moms by Race

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I could sing the praises of Maria Bailey and her team at BSM Media for, oh, about a week. I have learned so much from Maria and really look up to her personally and professionally. I was beyond flattered when she asked me to participate in a research project focusing on the values of moms of different races.

BSM sent out the press release of the findings last week (below and in PDF form here). I really hope companies, advertisers and media pay attention to the findings. This past Tuesday really was (IMHO) the beginning of a new era and a new social consciousness. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television and any other media need to be prepared for the shift in demographics I believe will be coming.

One of my comments to Maria was that, because of our new President and First Lady (squee!), there may be people of different ethnicities and backgrounds participating in media they never would have before. A grandmother who has never read the USA Today may pick it up because Obama is on the cover. A mother may buy an issue of a magazine she's never read before because of an article on the First Lady.

I'm considering subscribing to Time or Newsweek because I really want to be more active and knowledgeable politically than I was before.

I really do believe the demographics are going to change and I hope companies and the media are prepared to make sure they are reaching this new audience.

FT. LAUDERDALE (JANUARY 13, 2009) – When it comes to motherhood, nothing is black and white. As we usher in the inauguration of our first African American President, a new study examines the behaviors and values of mothers across racial lines. The research shows that while all mothers are battling with the growing concerns facing our nation, some of a mother’s coping strategies and motivations are tied to her culture and ethnic background.

The research was conducted by BSM Media,, a leading marketing to moms firm led by Maria Bailey, author of “Mom 3.0: Marketing With Today’s Mothers by Leveraging New Media and Technology”.

“Moms share universal concerns for their children,” says Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media. “It is clear, however, that the way she reacts to the economy, rising food costs and the dreams she has for her children is impacted by her personal experiences, upbringing and ethnic background.”

BSM Media partnered with several prominent African American mom bloggers to field the research: Jennifer James, editor of Mommy Too! Magazine (, Melanie Sheridan from Mel, A Dramatic Mommy (, Kimberly Coleman from Mom in the City (, and Michele Dortch, The Integrated Mother (

“Identifying the specific needs of African American Moms is timely,” said Melanie Sheridan from Mel, A Dramatic Mommy, “Companies and media need to be more culturally aware and prepared for the expanded audiences recent historic events may bring their way.”

Key Findings of the study include:

· Although the majority of all moms have made household adjustments to cope with the economic crisis, African American moms are more likely to delay major purchases (57%) and avoid stores to reduce shopping (54%). Caucasian moms are coping by using coupons and discount codes (73%) and driving fewer places to conserve gas (62%).

“It takes a lot of time and concerted effort to use coupons effectively and save money, and time is something that many African American moms don’t have”, says Jennifer James, editor of Mommy Too! Magazine (, “In addition, many of the manufacturer coupons found in the newspaper are not found in the retail locations in urban communities and if they are, many African American moms opt to purchase lower cost generic brands which usually don’t issue coupons.”

· African American moms are more likely to turn to clergy for support (60%) than Caucasian moms (41%). Other popular support outlets among both races included spouses, parents and other moms.

· Although moms across racial lines ranked education as their greatest dream for their children, African American moms are more likely to aspire for their children to have a deep religious commitment as adults than Caucasian moms.

“For many of us, our faith has sustained us.” says Kimberly Coleman of Mom in the City,, in response to the importance of religion in the African American community.

· Caucasian moms named managing the desires of their children for material things as a challenge (45%), while African American moms are battling with affordable housing (35%).

· While online, African American mothers are more likely to read articles (68%) and experience music (45%). Caucasian mothers are likely to frequent social networks (45%) and message boards (43%).

“The results of BSM’s research confirm one very important fact - we may share a common bond as mothers, but each of us brings a unique approach to motherhood that must be recognized,” says Michele Dortch of The Integrated Mother.

Dipping My Toes In

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My uncle emailed this to me:

A white man asked his black friend, "Are you voting for Barack Obama just because he's black?”

The black man responded by saying, "Why not? Hell, in this country men are pulled over everyday just cause they're black; passed over for
promotions just cause they're black; considered to be criminals just
cause they're black; and there are going to be thousands of you who
won't be voting for him just because he's black!

However, you do not seem to have a problem with that! This country was built with the sweat and whip off the black slaves' back, and now a descendant of those same slaves has a chance to lead the same country, where we weren't even considered to be people, where we weren't allowed to be educated, drink from the same water fountains, eat in the same restaurants, or even vote.

So yes! I'm going to vote for him! But it's not just because he's black, but because he is hope, he is change, and he now allows me to understand when my grandson says that he wants to be president when he grows up, it is not a fairy tale but a short term goal.

He now sees, understands and knows that he can achieve, withstand and do ANYTHING just because he's black!"

(photo from

Q & A: My Growing Up Years Part Three

Monday, May 26, 2008

Now for Steph's question:
"Was your family upset when you married your husband?"
Yes and no. There's lot's of backstory so bear with me.

(Homecoming Oct. 1990)

DH and I met in high school. (Which is a story in itself because he was SO not my type!) He was my first serious boyfriend. At 17, I think parents are going to be concerned about their daughter getting so serious so fast about anyone, regardless of color.

So, we started dating the summer between junior and senior year and were inseparable until I left for college. Even then we visited as often as we could.

I think my dad hoped that when I went away and was exposed to a much bigger world than my hometown, I would outgrow my "crush" and meet a nice young black man, preferably a Kappa, and live happily ever after.

He practically begged me to join a sorority so I went to a meeting but that
lifestyle just wasn't for me.

DH and I did break up for several years when he was stationed in Italy right out of boot camp. We dated other people, but none seriously. When DH returned from overseas, we pretty much fell right back into our relationship.

My father saw in DH an unmotivated, pothead surfer (true, except for the unmotivated part) who had no real ambition. DH didn't finish college. He joined the military instead. My dad's attitude was "only people who have to join the military join the military."

I, on the other hand, was proud that DH recognized that he was on a path to nowhere and took steps necessary to make something better of himself.

My mom has never had any real problems with DH other than how serious we were at 17. Her long time boyfriend is white, so she had no room to complain, though my father blamed her for "putting ideas in my head."

One time, my dad set me up with one of his co-workers' son (this was pre-DH).
Whom I'd never met. To go to prom. I was furious! But, I went along to make Dad happy and to get a new dress and shoes. I invited R over so at least we could lay eyes on one another before the dance.

That fool showed up at my house with no money, kept his ball cap on the whole time he was inside, didn't stand up to greet my mom when she came home and didn't offer to help her bring in the groceries! I never saw him again.

Anyway, DH and I resumed our relationship, he moved into my apartment and we lived together for 2 years before eloping getting married in 1998.

It's bothered DH that my dad didn't approve of us being together. I told him not to worry about pleasing my dad, that's not what he wants to see. Just continue to be a good person and he'll either come around or he won't.

It was a long time before Dad finally said he couldn't be upset with me for the choice I made as it was his and my mother's choice to move us away from the city, into an almost all white (at the time) neighborhood therefore severely limiting my options. That was a Halellujah! moment for me.

(Prom, May 1991)

And, as my father has watched my husband (literally) grow from a boy into a man, husband and father, he's come around. Dad said to my mom (which she relayed to me):

"Kids and animals are the best way to know if someone is a good person, and that little boy (DS) adores his father."

After the phone call I immediately ran to DH and said, "You're in! My Dad likes you now!" and there was much rejoicing.

Dad calls hubby son, which is HUGE. And when Daddy (yep, you heard me) took me to lunch a few weeks ago, he asked whether I was trying to talk DH into finishing college. I said no, I've tried but hubby's logic is that of all our friends who went to college, he's the one with best job and no student loans.

After a minute Dad says, "well, he's got a point, don't bitch at him about it," which is also HUGE because my dad is the poster boy for "everyone should go away to college to make something of themselves."

It's all good now. And I don't blame my dad. He has a right to his feelings. And they never really gave me any grief about it or made DH feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, which I appreciate.

And I wonder if I had backed down and broken up with DH, would they have respected me? After all, I learned from them how important it is to be your own person, to follow your heart and go for what you want.
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Q & A: My Growing Up Years Part Two

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm liking this Q & A thing, mostly because I get to talk about myself, but I also like giving people something to think about. I'm still answering questions from the comments on my earlier posts here and here about my childhood, having a bi-racial family and my experiences with racism.

Steph asked:
"Was your family upset when you married your husband?"
Ahh, the husband questions! I thought that one would have come first! LOL! That one requires a long answer so I'll address MoFM first.

She said:
"My brother in law is black. he grew up in Long Beach, CA and then went to Stanford. Like you, he has been chastised by his relatives for acting "white." Not something that I understand, never having been a minority myself."
I can't honestly say I understand it completely myself. Within the black community, there is this idea that speaking, dressing or behaving in ways that have been associated with white culture somehow makes a person "less" black.

Unfortunately, the things that make someone "less" black are typically educational and/or economically based. The fact that I liked to read, made good grades, was articulate, moved away from black neighborhoods and had designer clothes made me (and therefore my parents) a "sell out." I'd "forgotten where I came from."

It's hard for me to see it as anything other than jealousy. It would be one thing if people chastised me for not celebrating Kwanzaa (which I don't though I know a little about the history) or not knowing some of the major historical events and figures of black culture.

But to say I've lost touch with "my roots" because I can effectively string a sentence together borders on the absurd. And I refuse to apologize for the fact that my family worked very hard to buy the house in the safe neighborhood with the good schools. My parents sacrificed to give me everything I have today. Isn't that what anyone wants to do for their children?

James C. Collier hosts a great blog addressing issues just like this, among others. This is a great post that clarifies the ideas behind "acting white" better than I can.

I found these great articles offering more perspective

Hopefully that helps a little. It's too bad that there is often so much strife within our own community. Our shared skin color, history and desire to make racism a thing of the past should be enough to keep everyone friendly and helpful toward one another, but I guess there are always going to be a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.

My relationship with my hubby and the ripples it caused within my family is another looong story that I think will have to wait until tomorrow so I can address it fully. Along with Eminem.

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Q & A: My Growing Up Years

So Steph has asked me to detail some of the painful experiences I had growing up as a minority. Kidding!

Seriously, though, she commented on my post about our bi-racial family and asked me a few questions. I told her via email that I consider myself an open book. I'd rather have someone ask me a question despite how it may "sound" because I believe dialogue is important.

Again, this is in no particular order. I'm going to go with the flow, whatever comes to mind.

I can definitely say I had a good childhood. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. We were one of the first black families in our neighborhood. I don't remember any incidences of racism against our family but I was pretty young. Bad things didn't start happening to me until we moved to So Cal.

There were not many black families in our new city either (a nice part of Ventura County). I was usually the only black student in a class. Almost all the issues I've ever had were with boys. It was only name calling (I shouldn't say only, verbal abuse is still abuse) nothing physical: Chocolate Bar, Hershey and the ever present N word.

Most of the time I told my parents and they took care of it. My dad is in law enforcement (at time he was Secret Service) and a pretty big guy.

If I was having issues, I'd ask my dad if he could come get me from school. One time, I said I had a lot of homework and could he come with me to my locker because I needed all my books and they were too heavy for me to carry. I could tell he wasn't quite buying it since I'd never asked him to do this before but he played along.

Of course I had to walk him down the main hallway and of course I had to introduce him to several of the guys. I think Dad understood then but he didn't ask me to elaborate. This was junior high and I guess he knew I was wanting to start handling things my way.

Needless to say, his 6' 5" presence in the midst of all the pre-pubes really lent credence to "if you don't knock it off my dad will kick your ass."

There was one boy though who just wouldn't let up. I finally grabbed him by the wrist, bent it backwards and made him apologize. He eventually met Dad too and that was that.

My parents lived in St. Louis and moved to Illinois when I was a baby. For awhile I thought it was odd that my dad would move us so far from the city into a place that was so, well, white, given his feelings about white people.

Now, I feel I have to defend Dad a little here and say he's not a racist. He has a definite mistrust is the word I'll use, but it doesn't come out of nowhere. Given that my parents are in their mid 50's, the climate they were raised in is 180 degrees different than today. He's never said
anything hostile or derogatory about whites around me.

When my dad and uncles were little, "do not go across the train tracks after dark" was not an idle threat parents used to keep kids in line like the boogeyman. People were seriously hurt or lynched for being in the "wrong"neighborhood.

My dad played football and made all sorts of notoriety for the school. I think he was named all state champ or something, but when it came time to award scholarships, he didn't get one. My uncle told me the story. Dad was sure he was going to get a scholarship and coach called out all these names on the team. The last person awarded was the team kicker. He did go to college, to a HBU (historically black university) and even played arena football for The Chicago Fire until right before I was born.

My parents would not have been remiss in raising me to have the same anxieties, but they didn't. Instead, I had to give 110%, be better than everyone else and never give anyone a reason to deny me anything. People were not going to expect much from both a black and a woman so I had to prove everybody wrong. Which is why I'm such a type A control freak perfectionist.

Now that I'm a parent I can absolutely understand their decisions. And I respect the hell out of them for it.

It was hard to go back to St. Louis to visit. As a kid, I didn't know where the hostility the other black kids showed towards me came from. But I got a lot of, "she thinks she better than us," "she's not black enough" and "she thinks she's white." I always thought it was so stupid.

I couldn't understand why, just because we had the same skin color, I was all of a sudden supposed to start saying "ain't" and "aks" instead of ask. I was a straight A student and I was taught that "ain't" was not a word. Period. And I couldn't just flip a switch because I was around all black people and add it to my vocabulary.

Looking back though, I
was different, and different makes people uncomfortable. We'd come to visit every few years and I'd have my hair freshly done, new toys, a suitcase full of Esprit clothes (hey, it was the 80's!) and I lived in California (that alone was enough to make me stick out like a sore thumb).

I guess I can see me through their eyes. My not knowing how people outside of family were going to treat me made me, not really shy, more like cautious, and that could have been perceived as haughtiness.

I kept to a small circle of friends and tried not to let it bother me too much. My dad has a saying (one of many), "they may be your color, but that doesn't mean they're your people." I took it to heart and it helped me to not get my feelings hurt too often.

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