“No more — wake up”

September 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

A friend of mine recently read some of the posts on the Just Like Family blog and offered the following. I was not raised by an African American woman, but we did have maids who cleaned for us throughout my childhood. The interaction was strange and strained…my parents were not welcoming. Although my mother was not vocally derisive, she did not seem to appreciate having them in our home. She was not interested in house-keeping, and my father, who was and is more outwardly racist, demanded that she hire someone to clean. Despite my parents, I’ve had numerous close friends who are African American. When I moved to Colorado, my partner in the adventure, was Jonathan, a black friend I met in college in Lafayette.

Having grown up in the south near New Orleans, I have a rich appreciation for the culture there. One of my favorite memories is, after having lived in Colorado for a long while, traveling back to New Orleans and just walking through a supermarket in Chalmette and listening to the ladies talk in the aisles. I remember being so tickled and feeling such a wave of nostalgia. Reading and then watching the movie of “The Help,” I identified with Skeeter’s bewilderment at beliefs and behaviors that were at odds with her own, and with her attacks on her parents statements and choices. I’ve experienced the same, having very public and vocal disagreements with my father when I couldn’t bear to hear him speak another disrespectful word about people I love.

As I am a gay man, I’ve known the sense of feeling “other” and “outsider,” even though outwardly I think I also “pass” for the straight white male power majority. I know that the racism I see directed towards African Americans is easily turned toward me when my difference is discovered. That display of superiority…and the fear and rage that it masks…I get the connection in aggressions towards all (as well as in between) minorities. I find it astonishing that any oppressed people can be so unconscious as to, in turn, rain oppression on to another minority class. I feel like I am consistently on “heightened alert” …that it’s my human responsibility to say “no more — wake up.” I really enjoyed reading the stories in your blog…the connections described…the awakenings…they spoke to my heart.

Greg

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