I grew up in the Midwest in the 60s. And much like OMS, my parents' racism was of the "they can't help it" variety. I guess that was a pretty
popular type of racism at the time, considering what the country was going through.
Only a couple black girls attended our grade school of about 200 students. One of them was in my 2nd grade class. My mother had told me not to play
with the black girls and when I asked why (she should have known that was coming), she made up some lame response like they're dirty or something. I
remember questioning my mother's judgment a lot as a child and this was no exception (thankfully).
In one of our more physical games on the playground, it so happened that I ended up very close to this black classmate in sort of a prolonged
wrestling hold. I still remember the beautiful brown skin of her neck against the pink dress she had on and the coarseness of her nappy hair so close
to my face. Her skin was about 2" away from me and as I breathed in deeply through my nose trying to catch a whiff of just what a black person
smelled like, I discovered that she smelled like soap.
I knew in that instant that my parents had no clue as regards black people. I bet my mother never smelled a black person for herself.
As an adult, my parents were unable or unwilling to shake off the lies they had learned about black people, but I (thankfully) had no trouble. While I
was working at a research and development branch of GTE, where American white people were the minority, I met and fell in love with a man from Uganda,
who I will call "Amannya". I had dated a Mexican man before and he had been at my parent's house many times... My parents loved him. But when they
learned I was dating a black man, my father "put his foot down" and informed me that Amannya wasn't welcome at their home.
My mother had come around a little by this time and she would have let us both visit, but my father read bible verses to me that supposedly explained
why we shouldn't be dating, and hesitantly, my mother deferred to my father's judgment (as was always
the case). He was impotent to control
me and refusing to let me bring Amannya to the house was the only action he could take to try to make me break up with him. Little did he know, the
fact that he didn't approve was actually an incentive, rather than a deterrent.
Interesting that I write this on Easter Sunday... Our family, being very religious, ALWAYS had a large celebration and family meal on Easter. When I
informed my parents that I'd be bringing Amannya, my father absolutely forbade it. I said, "Well, if he's not welcome, I'm not welcome," hoping
to bluff my father into giving up his ridiculous rule, just for the holiday.
Boy, was my face red when he called my bluff, "Well, then, you're not welcome."
Not welcome at my own family gathering on Easter?!?!? Oh, it was a real heart breaker. But I was really stubborn and it hurt my heart to tell
Amannya that he wasn't welcome at my parent's, even for a special occasion. So, I told my father I'd be absent on Easter.
It turns out that Amannya had already made plans for Easter with some of his male friends, thinking that I would be at my parents'. So I spent that
Easter morning alone in my apartment, missing my family and missing him and realizing just how stupid my father was being to turn away his daughter
because of his own ignorance.
Months later, my mother became very ill and Amannya wanted to visit her in the hospital. We went to the hospital and had to "hide" in the waiting
room until we saw my father leave, then "sneak" up to my mother's room, so Amannya could meet her and give her his gift. She held his hand and
cried and blessed him for coming to see her, but also for being so understanding about their prejudices. It would be their only meeting.
My mother died of bone marrow cancer that year and my father died a couple years later.
Remnants of the prejudice that my parents ingrained into me from a very young age are still with me. Like OMS, I have that 'kick' of
suspicion/wariness when I meet someone of a different race, but I'm able to quickly brush it away. And every experience comes together to make me
who I am. And I am thankful for them.
More in response to the other posts later.