I'm Just Me
Now, when Clay wrote his post on Thanksgiving, I was shocked. I don't know how else to put it. I had no idea, whatsoever, that any of that had occurred. How I didn't know, I've no idea. I don't consider myself ignorant, I've got a pretty decent education, I'm an avid reader and I've always watched and read the news. I asked everyone to read Clay's post and many of you did, and I thank you. I appreciate Clay's writing about this, because I learned something. Something really worth learning. And because I did, my kids (and many others) will learn it too. Clay also recommended a book for me, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, which I bought today at Barnes & Noble. I've only read a bit about it, mostly the credentials of the author, and I'm impressed and looking forward to reading it. Instead of repeating Clay's post (which, believe me, I could not in any way do justice to it), I'll just ask that you read it, if you haven't already. Trust me, it's an awesome and enlightening read about the history of Thanksgiving. (hint: the elementary school play's have it all wrong...oh, and so did The Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving television special)
This brings me to the comment part of Clay's blog. Clay is a gorgeous black man, and many of his readers are black. Though none of them know me personally, my picture accompanies my name...and let's face it, I'm unmistakably white. Somehow, through my life, I've rarely been subjected to anyone holding it against me. I've actually had more white people hold my friendships with black people against me than black people holding my being white against me. This is because of where I come from. I went over some of this on Deb's blog. It isn't something I've ever liked talking about, but it's surfaced and I don't think until I deal with it, I'll be able to blog. Y'all know how I like to blog. :)
I'm from a small town just a few miles northeast of Indianapolis, Indiana. My dad was very racist, as was his dad before him and I'm sure it had been passed on down the line. Now, my grandma was a sweet little (4'8") Christian lady that would get onto my grandpa every time he said something racist. I can still hear her saying, "Now Mac..." Yeah, that's all it took for that little lady to rein him in. Anyway, we were living in the heart of KKK country. We (my sister and I) often wondered if my dad was a member, he denied it. Actually, I can't (and won't) speak for my sister, so I correct that to 'I often wondered'.
It should go without saying that I never knew (and rarely saw) a black person while I was growing up. I do remember one time when we were at a swimming pool at a state park for Memorial Day, and my sister and I were swimming when suddenly we hear my dad screaming our names and saying "get away from those n*ggers". (I refuse to ever say that word, and it was hard enough just to to type it). It took us a few minutes to realize what was going on, but then we noticed a couple of young black kids swimming near us. Apparently we didn't move fast enough and he came around the pool, continuing to yell the same sort of stuff and physically pulled us out of the pool. He screamed at us all the way home. We got the same treatment every time he'd catch us watching any t.v. show's with black people in it. Now, I come from a very abusive (physically, verbally and emotionally) home, but it was from my mom, not my dad. We normally stood up to him, and he'd go for days without talking to us.
When I started high school we had a couple of black people enter our school. One was a girl named Betty Butler (anyone know a woman by that name that went to school at Greenfield Central, give her my addy). She and I became great friends, actually she was one of my closest friends. At home, I was ridiculed and forbidden to bring her into our house.
This is just a small example of how I was brought up. I refused to share the prejudices that surrounded me. I believed that people could be 'color blind'. When I went away to college, I was able for the first time to be friends with whomever I wanted. Still, for the next 10 years after I left home, I faced nearly as many prejudices as I did at home. Thankfully, I see times as having changed.
That is, until little things are said that brings it all back home again. This brings me back to Clay's blog...or actually his comments section. One of his readers made a comment about white people in general. Now, I know that they probably didn't mean it toward any individual, and most definitely not at me in particular. It's just that all the old feelings that I'd thought I'd left behind came back in waves. Trust me, I know that bigotry goes both ways. I was dating a black guy in college that was a star player on the basketball team when 4 black girls got me in an elevator. I'd dated a black guy when I lived in Florida and we both got a lot negative treatment from both races. Another time I was hitching through Georgia and got beat up terribly by a couple of black girls for being in 'the wrong part of town'. Yeah, I hitched all over for a couple of years...a long, long time ago. But I've never blamed an entire race for the actions of a few people.
Which, brings me full circle to Clay's blog. I can't believe all the history of Thanksgiving that I didn't know. The native americans were treated so unbelievably unfairly, as were slaves, blacks, jews...how long could this list go on??? But, and yes there is a 'but', that had nothing to do with me, or you. It does have to do with those that still carry that hatred and bigotry around with them. I just wish that we would learn not to generalize.
SableDawn commented: After torment, there are always two paths: one of vengeance and anger, and one of forward thinking.
Leesa commented: Seems like history is written by the victors. Thanks for another eye-opening viewpoint. This is true, and just one of the reasons why I'm grateful for the kind of forums, like Clay's blog, that enlightens many...such as myself.
A couple of commenters I'll leave anonymous said: I watched this History Channel program about Thanksgiving. It was great. I could just hear the white people groaning and the collective flipping of many channels. You know they hate to relive any of their history of slaughter and sacrifice to its truth.
And I always hated the history books. Why should I listen to his story, the white, abled body, rich, christian man that is.
But my favorite comment was from dugla: I feel enlightened by this and the previous post/comments but I also feel burdened by the way we have seemed to divide, classify and further segregate ourselves into racial, ethnic, religious groups ETC ETC ETC. I will never forget that despite our many, many differences, WE ARE ALL HUMAN Thank you, dugla.
Couple of quotes from the book (by Loewen) that I mentioned earlier that Clay had recommended to me:
The black-white rift stands at the very center of American history. It is the great challenge to which all our deepest aspirations to freedom must rise. If we forget that - if we forget the great stain of slavery that stands at the heart of our country, our history, our experiment - we forget who we are, and we make the great rift deeper and wider. ~ Ken Burns
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou
Thanks for reading.