I just don’t know how to say this. I am so certain that the mere idea could be so badly received that it would cause this note to be set aside, or someone would implode in anger and frustration at my words.
I went to a group organized for understanding and hopefully alleviating racism, and wondered, would I hear something different that might make me think I should open my mouth? But, my instinct to remain silent, was what I took away. I would help in any way I could, I would help others who think differently than me about about how to, where to, and why to, but I just don’t think I should even say what I felt and thought. I certainly would never wish to debate any idea I might have, and I certainly would not try to say how the white history should be re-written, and it certainly needs re-writing few disagree with that, no more than I would try to correct any omissions in black history. But I will certainly say, I bet the coming debate over what any history actually was will be intense – for everybody.
But to trying to voice an issue – the idea would be… is… we want to make life safe and happy for everyone, meaning, defeat racism that hurts other people, we can’t all kill each other for differences and shortcomings – especially since it will always come back around to ourselves to view our own shortcomings. I certainly have mine and work all the time to be more understanding and rise above all the failures.
I am biased about tons of things and the older I get the more entrenched are my beliefs and feelings. Being from Birmingham, Alabama and white one might assume I was a white bigot – well about ¼ of my life was white bigot – but I was from a mixed family. My father’s southern family was mixed and my mother’s family, my local step family, were best described as very liberal – thank G-d for liberals. (My mother’s biological family were all far away in Wisconsin and only to be imagined and longed for)
Birmingham remains a conflict for me and many of the people I have loved, and do love dearly, bitterly disagreed, and some still alive, still disagree with me. One relative put it, ‘she ain’t right in the head, just ain’t right in the head’.
In India the people I saw in the multitude of servitude jobs were often dark people. Then I thought about the several hundred years of known history of slavery with people being taken East and North, it occurred to me where Africans from North and South America might also look for genetic relatives.
We know African North Americans must have genetic cousins in African South and Central Americans. There would have been family still going East and North even after the years people began to be taken West. These stories must be found and the genetics must be gathered.
The wonderful, magnificent, first lady, Michelle Obama tried to bring the issue of world modern slavery to the forefront as a cause and she was stopped in her tracks – I was devastated to see that she was silenced. After, I went back and hit delete on much I had written on the computer about my thoughts about the countries I visited and lived in where I saw a sometimes horrid and always very complicated world of oppression.
If Michelle Obama is silenced – then I sure as heck do not have the nerve to upset the NAACP, who I would think should be my ally, not my judge of condemnation. But I have a few notes, pictures and letters from many years of my life, so now, I start again. I know most of what I write on this certainly upsets the white right but somehow there must be help for all those who need it but will help ever happen for all in this country.
To note just one tip of one iceberg of the enormity of the problem of modern-day slavery, listen to this piece from the show Quest Means Business with the interview speaking to slavery slavers using not only Air B’n’B but the hospitality industry including hotels, restaurants, etc.
In Hong Kong I was asked to be one of the judges for the Miss Pilipino HK contest and for several reasons of marital relationship distress I did not. But there was a young lady who I asked if she was going to be in the contest, because I thought of her as a truly strikingly beautiful young lady. She was friends with my co-worker, and we are still friends today (living), but when I asked (living) about her being in the contest, she replied, ‘oh no ma’am, I am Negrito, I could not enter.’ I was floored. I had a lot to learn.
I had run away from home; the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to my leaving was largely motivated by racial issues, and I had kept running, from Birmingham, to Atlanta, to Birmingham, to New Orleans to Birmingham, to Destin, Umatilla, Miami, to Birmingham, to New York, to Atlanta, to Hong Kong, to Israel, to Toronto and back to the US to DC and then Maryland. – maybe I missed a place…
New Orleans was as cliquish as they come, everybody knows their place and everybody was in their place. Venice, Louisiana was a world unto itself, paths did not cross personally.
The Florida Panhandle it was a tight knit white community with no room for integrating anything, not boat crews, not neighborhoods, not time shares.
But every place proved that every one in every place, had this wretched hierarchy in society, some kind of bigotry and bias and the farther away I got, did not help me to feel any more at home. The older the cultures and towns, the deeper ingrained, and more complicated the bias.
My friend in Israel (Rafi) said he had loved his year in the USA, he noted in the US he is a white man, but in Israel he is a black man – he has a partly Sephardic heritage.
My hero Professor Cornel West, likely does not agree with me, I think he has this need to pound this missing 400 years of African American history of only the slavery oppression parts with his fist until it is accepted before he considers any other additions. But what the heck is wrong with positive affirmations and why can’t we give all peoples more heroes to emulate? Would some of those heroes be tarnished with their crowns askew? – yeah.
But who will re-write the history the white also, much less the black, and brown and yellow and red – and is this not somehow simply the American history? How can history be more inclusive when we can’t agree on which truths to allow or not?
Dr West noted recently about the powers that be and that they are so very dangerous, particularly now, and with that, he and I totally agree – so isn’t it time we stop allowing those powers to divide and conquer white folks and black folk and brown folks? I wish to hear more from Dr West about unifying people, like me with my black neighbors. I think some parts of the history lesson have worked too well. There is so much hate and fear on all sides now we need to find some peace and love like Dr West says, but give us a peace and love story – at least two everytime one sad story of oppression is told.
I set the DVR to record the shows for Professor Henry Louis Gates on PBS before the 1st one aired, maybe about 2006 (He had already endeared viewers on PBS with his great travel shows the decade before). I have not missed a show of his people, family histories and DNA – but I have also yelled at the TV, ‘No, NO – it is more complicated than that – there was also love.’ We must not bury the couples of our ancestry who lived as mixed race families for 1,000s of years.
Then I read that Dr Gates was treated horribly for writing the same things I think in a 2010 op-ed. Rejecting his words is rejecting the known history of humanity, and I could not fathom why. I still cannot fathom why. It made me think of so many white people in 1960s Birmingham and many of them were just used to saying no and repeating history.
There was also in world history many great accomplishments of Africans. In early Virginia where black freedom was outlawed, many of course hid, and moved, and hid again. The Melungeon court cases of some families (living descendants private) (ancestry tree) who had to defend their whiteness and pass the no drop law in a world that one-drop meant black and one could not own property in many places, so this got complicated.
I met an American in Israel whose family had a poignant story of family history survival. His father’s family were Jewish and Spanish but for survival they had converted, only after freedom in America did he tell his son about his family as a child having blessing of the bread on Friday night Sabbath being conducted in secret in their basement or back rooms – the son I met had come to Israel to live to get to know his heritage. He identified as Marrano but with this being his father’s side, I believe he locally encountered an issue because it was not his mother’s said also. I got the feeling that he believed he did not fit anywhere.
I met two Russians that both were sent to Israel in a program that resulted in many being sent to Israel to unite Jews with their homeland, there were questions about the program, were all the people of Jewish ancestry or not? Both had been in institutions one with polio (Levis) but said that he recalled being told from a young age he was Jewish, but the other had had no knowledge of his heritage and described in horror his being sent there and then being circumcised as a young teen.
The Mandarins looked down on the Cantonese and they all looked down on Indonesian Chinese (which must have had an ethnic group, but I don’t know it).
It wasn’t just color or clan and for that matter it wasn’t just Protestant against Catholic – it was also ‘once saved always saved’ against ‘works churches and sanctification”.
But moreover it was rich against poor, and for me, I was just young and dumb and had many parental figures, so power shifted in my family like twisting sheets in the heat of southern summers.
I was reared by my paternal grandparents, they were my legal guardians from the time I was a toddler – before my memories. My great uncle lived in the home and there was my aunt still at home. I saw my great aunt often and rarely saw my parents until about 1960 – the first 8 years they were in and out for fleeting moments – impacting moments and many of them still so strong they changed the course of my life that I remember well.
No color photos, that I know of, survive of my father before his hair turned gray, nor of my Paternal grandmother, so Carol Jean’s picture is the only comparison. Neither my father or mother were so different as humans, but together they were a contrast.
I was rocked, as they say, until my feet drug the floor, the bonds were strong between me and the rockers, but they were to be broken by the time I grew up and learned about color and how and why I was tolerated in the family – special, as they say.
Although I was surrounded by mostly very bigoted attitudes, most people, totally isolationist and very white – there was this other side, and a liberal feud between my paternal grandfather and most of the other side of the family, which finally was understood only to be his liberal thinking – so his influence alone might have saved me somewhat from the totally ignorant points of view, but he also had to comply to society and he was made to comply; so much of his wisdom was shared in secret, over bible readings and stories meant to make me feel better.
Not all others got to know Paw this way, but Aunt Nell and some others did, and Daddy Paw had known I remained distraught, being reared in my paternal grandmother’s strict works protestant faith, and my being told Catholics were going to hell, that they weren’t real Christians and I was horrified over my mother going to hell, she was a Catholic. Paw would try to tell me stories of all creatures, even Catholics, going to heaven.
My stepfather who was a Syrian Lebanese Maronite Christian whose family was from Zahle, Mount Lebanon, had made it possible for my mother to visit me more and so she was able to be more an involved parent and came to my school.
I never saw my mother’s color as an issue until the spring of 1963 or the fall of 1962 when my mother came to my school Graymont for lunch. For years my great aunt Mary Ethel did talk about the ‘blood’, the heritage, the ‘family’, good families, families that were disreputable had to wait across the railroad tracks for her father, the justice of the peace to come out and marry them. For families of good breeding and I guess white period – they were able to marry in the house or at least on the porch.
My mother was just a few minutes late, as the office had almost not let her in, not believing who she was. The school janitor was fetched and since he also did work for community families besides custodian of the school, he knew who my mother was. So when she came in, the lunchroom was all seated. I took her through the empty line.
My mother was beautiful, these was no argument about that. Her deep olive skin without any blemish and coal black hair she looked like a doll with her pleasant features.
But in white Birmingham and one school year away from Graymont’s integration – as my mother and I passed the teachers table, one of the teachers called out to me, ‘Cherie, where is your mother from?’ I lit up, ‘my mother is from Green Bay, Wisconsin’. The teacher snidely replied, ‘is THAT what people from Wisconsin look like?’. From that moment forward I did see her color, and everyone was always trying to get her to have a perm and then with curled hair and her color she looked mulatto (as one health care professional called her in Canada on seeing her picture)
My father met my mother while he was working, through the union, as a welder, pipe fitter on building construction in Green Bay from about 1949, my cousin thinks it might have been on the hospital building St Vincent’s as she and I wondered how my dad and mom might have met. She dad and our uncle also worked through the union and they all might have met through work. At the end of the job in late 1950 he married my mother and brought her to Alabama. My father was lily white, seeing every vein, with carrot red hair and blue eyes. It was said when my red-headed, blue-eyed paternal grandmother saw my mother come in the door, she fainted dead away.
The DNA does not show much Native American and all of those lines are her French Canadian but there is a bit and just a bit of maybe Yemeni and some Jewish but she is American Canadian with mostly Irish and English – a large swath genetically from Yorkshire in Giggleswick. [See the blog post on admixture where we follow the admixture of several people as the technology has changed over the last few years.]
I learned more about people of color and police because of the contrast between the treatment of my father and my stepfather in both being stopped by police. Both were driving too slow and both were in their cups. I was in the car with my dad for stops at least twice and vague memories of other times; Once my step mother was told to take over the wheel and another early on, he was allowed to continue with me to get me home, to my grandparents. But there was no question about me, a little white girl in the car with him.
But my step father had different treatment, seeing me, a little white girl in the car because an issue right off the bat and had to verify I had not been abducted with some dark man. I remember him saying, oh no, when the lights came on and it is true, I was savvy from a young age and I took that pint bottle in the brown bag and slipped it into my book satchel. The cop did search the car and when i told him the bag was mine, he did not touch it. Phillip did not know until we got home where the bottle went, he thought there had been a miracle from G-d, and then I pulled the bottle out of my case. Phillip was yes sir, no sir anything you say sir and still the cop spoke down to him remarkably different from how my red-headed blue-eyed dad was treated. It is true some rednecks don’t get along with police much better than blacks, but whites are not dying in the numbers that Black and Brown people are dying, and whites are not being incarcerated in the numbers that Black and Brown people are.
True enough there are places around the country where it will be the Native Americans who get the horrid disgusting treatment, and in other places, people from South and Central Americas get the short end of the stick. I grew up seeing Blacks and Reds and Browns treated so badly, and I just can’t imagine the horror of having to say, yes sir and no sir to a person who is going to kick you ass in the next second.
But my idea is for us all to unite, even if we do not agree, I might be almost 1/2 crusty ole WASP but I am also at least half a person without a country because I have tried to stand up and voice. But I can’t hurt someone’s, anyone’s, feelings at any time so what do I say, if anything
Growing up in fundamentalist Alabama one is so cocksure of their great faith and study of the word of G-d – then you visit or live in the Middle East and meet Christians whose ancestors worshiped in a church site that was almost 2,000 years old – with traditions longer than the age of our country, and while most Europeans were still worshiping deer antlers and trees in Europe (not that there is anything wrong with that) many of the Middle East were praising the name of the Christ on earth. Life is complicated and then we can read of the destroyed shrines and temples to mother G-ddesses and G-ds of our ancestors for 1,000s of years more and wonder if they also judged only by color.
I roll over in frustration at the bias against any black person or brown by anyone but of course particularly from those who profess Christianity –
How can you tell a child, a person, day after day, and year after year, they have been nobodies for roughly 400 years, or 4,000, or 4? How can there be usefulness in telling a generation to hate? Where was the first ‘difference’ resulting in bigotry? What was this about?
What came first the chicken or the egg?
Yes! Yes! Yes! – This is just what I mean
– a Super Hero – now this is reality! And this is WONDERFUL!
Let us unite.
March 23rd, 2018
Today there is new information about modern day slavery and how we all must at least hope for the future.
A wonderful story about learning the ancestry of a 19th century slave in Denmark through his descendants –
We can give all the world back their ancestries.
Wonderful website that covers many of the African plus haplogroups
The always wonderful website Haplogroup.org
I try to follow what the US National Institutes of Health is saying about any haplogroups
Add in July 15
Add July 19 = amazing – so on point
October 2018 Love tidbits of info. I had said my dad was working in a skyscraper. But my cousin explains there are no skyscrapers in Green Bay. She noted the building St Vincent’s hospital that might be one that was worked on at the time. Noting her dad and our uncle also worked on the building. So I changed the wording – which is a thrill because it is wonderful that someone read my words and cared enough to contribute!
And i also looked up what was what – in skyscrapers. wikipedia
Sam’s work was as a Pipe Fitter Welder – I recall him talking about some of the pipes carrying steam and tremendous pressure. He was a welder with perfect work and he was sent all over for building jobs.