A Descendant Of Slaveholders Speaks Her Truth

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Bigotry, xenophobia, racism, prejudices that maintain our ingrained subjugation of some, for the maintenance of white privilege.

I can not very well stand in judgment, as I am well aware of the quiet systemic racism, alive and viciously defended even here in my O’Canada, as my twitter feed of late has clarified.

From a certain angle, I see bigotry woven like threads through the fabric of some of my family stories. Even as these family myths were told, alongside colour lines within the land of my birth. Of the stark change in living conditions I could see with my own eyes as we crossed the border, through segregated neighbours, many places we visited down the interstate highways, and not just after we had crossed that Mason-Dixon line, stunned my innocent eyes.

Though, now, so clearly, distinct, even right there in Dodge… after being away for a while… to observe this… it was a shock. Yes, right there were I grew up, here, Canada, from people I knew, cared about, even family, people I loved.

How so easily it slid through the occasional conversation, joke here, prejudice there, racist slur uttered, and laughter, not uncomfortable laughter, no sense of shame.

Still, people will, if criticized, will emphatically deny they are racist, a bigot, xenophobic, or otherwise. Yet, racism is no longer reserved for the KKK robed and Nazi swastika tattooed on his forehead.

The white nationalist amongst the fray, worried about the dominance of the whiteness of the infinitesimal outer layer of their façade. Which in and of itself is merely a thinly veiled racist ideal, though many of those proponents of this fear vehemently oppose the fact.

And fact it is, regardless of their tired excuses, fact, they say… over and over… that all lives matter.

Well, maybe matter, but apparently not all that much.

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The twisted turns of their argument would be almost amusing, if the results were not so deadly.

So, I’ve been thinking of our family stories, again.

Like great grandma down south pointing out Rogers best friend, the only black face in the photo, when she said… “who’s this fellow”… when she first saw our wedding album.

I was embarrassed at her question. Embarrassed that in front of my husband she recognized first, not the colour of the bridesmaids dresses, not their hair, or the fact that I wore antique white, or any of that.

No, instead she pointed right at our best friend whose skin was black.

Of course there is that day, must have been I suppose, what, just a little less than a year before you died? You recall, maybe 2000 or so, when that new friend of mine came to visit that one Saturday?

I felt the anxiety inside grow, you know, as we drove up the drive and saw you out in your garden. I had tried to think of some reason we shouldn’t come out to visit you, as Steve thought I would just jump at the chance.

And why not, eh?

Why not want to shock lily-white Dodge and drive through town with loud rap music from some complex boombox in the trunk pumping out the beat that would make my sister die with envy, riding shot gun to the biggest and blackest black man I had ever met, into the heart of my home, riding in his big Old vintage white Lincoln Continental.

You gave nothing away, at your surprise, sure, but nothing more. You welcomed us with open arms, not one glance you made to me at all… that I recall.

Yet, afterwards, sometime afterwards, the story came out of when dad came home and you, when you heard his truck pull in the drive, rushed out to intersect, just in time, before the words that were going to leave his mouth were said… as friends also had arrived that Saturday night… before dad had a chance to say what was in his mind… what he’d been just about to say… “who is driving the n****r mobile“.

Yes, maybe an innocuous statement, unsaid, on the surface no harm meant. Those were the words we said, you said, I said, we believed… no harm meant.

Yet, you didn’t have to say a word to me. I often wonder why you did?

I mean, how stereotypical of Steve to be who he is, and drive a car so in tune with that gang-sta image, and dad was playing that to the crowd of those he knew, or thought he knew. Meant as a joke, nothing more.

Harmless… right? Right?

I mean, he had no idea Steve was there. He knew the other cars, but that one amongst the others stood right out.

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I think too about you getting called from Lex’s teacher about a racist joke she’d told in class when she was very young. Remember how mortified you were, at your daughter not knowing that she should not repeat that in the company of… well… how uncomfortable that conversation would have been… good god.

Yet, why did she hear the joke? Why was the joke told? And evidently everyone laughed… or else she wouldn’t have told it in class for show and tell, right?

Yea, ok.

Right. None of us want to be racist.

Well, most don’t.

Some wouldn’t even think of some of these things as racist, per se, as if we white people get to decide this.

Um.

And, that kind of is the point.

Actually, it is the very point I came to not so long ago, and believe me mom, it was not easy to digest.

Am I an enabler?

Yes.

Sure, I can run on and on about whether dad’s racist, defend his upbringing, his feelings… but… that would be just a tad high and mighty. Cause, you see, I am too… or have been… ignorant of it. Growing up as we did, aware, but in so many ways, completely oblivious, apparently.

This gigantic movement, Black Lives Matter, the protests have not stopped. In city after city, day after day, still there are those marching, protesting, making their voices loud, clear, with purpose, united, and not at all going away.

On its surface, and at its heart, the ignition of George Floyd’s death, of police brutality, of the systematic racism the infests many police forces even beyond American shores. Sure, it is about the fact this needs to stop. This violence and inequality within the system that puts more people of a different colour in jail at an alarming rate, of their increase in deaths at the hand of the police, and at the qualified immunity of cops in some places that protects their racist ass. It all needs to stop.

Yes, this is the surface, the cause, the slogans chanted, this is at its heart, is its soul.

The momentum that has sustained it for almost 3 solid weeks, though, I don’t quite know what, or which – the pandemic, the economic disaster its caused, the many repercussions – an underlying sense that so many have had themselves, of feeling helpless at the hands of this oppressive and angry right-wing faction that has spread around the globe. I really think some momentum of the movement… the surge, and what has maintained its strength, well, comes from this strong sense of compassion and empathy. Acknowledgement, that THIS… THIS thing I can maybe fix.

And, it is working.

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Change is not just on its way, it has arrived.

And, I suspect this is JUST the beginning of a wave of those who have stood by and watched as all the advances made towards equality, towards more environmental protections, as institutions are being weakened by nefarious tyrants, who can just stand by?

But THIS is something we can fix. NOW.

I think that’s it. People are tired of all this… um… winning. And god help the tainted racist bigoted cockwobbles that think they can stand in their way.

This movement, at this moment, reinforcing their message, holding their ground, not giving way, as the right-wing fear-mongers try to push us all back into the fantasyland of yesteryear they are so desperate to defend. So so fearful of what the future holds for a bunch of dirty old white men who have steered us all into one conflict after another, ignoring whatever got in the way of them acquiring wealth, and manipulating the many to maintain the all mighty capitalists’ dying philosophies, ready to ram it down our throats, so great is the fear that they are a dying breed.

And, god, I hope so.

You know mom, there is such a volume of crap being spewed right now, such anger, resentment, divisions so much deeper than they ever were, as entities, foreign and domestic, I fear, manipulate and stirs the divisive chaos, the oppositions vast, conversations devolve into arguments, and the puppet master of our prejudices profits from the divided, once united States.

Or, that’s how I see it.

Difficult conversations, uncomfortable realizations, yet, necessary.

Essential to expose all of this to the light of day, for people to have their say, speak their minds, and right or wrong, quiet no longer, a silent acquiesce of the status quo, NO MORE.

And, listening.

I think that is probably more important.

Too often we think we know, but, do we?

I certainly didn’t wrap my head around the prejudices and racism, how prevalent it was all around me, even here. Didn’t grasp the fact that people with white skin don’t really have the moral high ground to decide what is racist. Em, not really our call, eh?

We need to listen.

Not good enough to just stake our ground, get all defensive.

Nor, does it do any good to ignore it. It festers and grows when we push this stuff underground. Out of public view no more, exposed, we can clearly see, day after day, from streaming live video feeds from all over the world, pretending racism isn’t there, gets us nowhere.

Yet, this force of will taking hold, mom, it is so glorious, such strength of will, and messy as it can be sometimes, the veil ripped off and exposed, and it’s impossible to ignore. You know, we swallow that damn guilt, acknowledge the things your own silence has sustained, and refuse to be silent any more.

Change is coming, maybe sometimes kicking and screaming and manufacturing manipulative crap they still think they can get away with in this on demand digital streaming world. But, change is coming.

When a black man is shot in the back, or kneeled on until he dies by a cop? Again, and again, and again. Cops called for guy being black walking down the street, or stopped for being black in a nice car, or for jogging while black, birdwatching while black, time after time after time?

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So, sure maybe my own family stories are what they are, but the telling is not the point, but the acceptance that I have been completely ignorant of so many racist things, is my point.

Like, for instance, how black people see the confederate flag, to how many are shot in the states just for the colour of their skin, treated completely differently in some cases, brutally different.

Struggling to articulate it I suppose. What to expose to light of day, what to say, how, why? I mean, why say anything? Ya, that is my thing, eh, overthinking my overthinking.

Powerful last few weeks, very powerful.

And, not to be forgotten, all the while these marches have happened throughout the world, in almost every major city, the virus has spread, and more people die daily.

It has not at all gone away, and the cases are climbing again in many states, including where dad is, and that worries me.

Not simple times at all, but, even so, there is still lots of goodness in the world.

Love,
paula

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