This is for everyone who knows me well enough to call me a bigot, a racist and self-righteous. I’m glad you know me so intimately. It makes me happy you know I come from ancestors who were abolitionists and had a stop on the Underground Railroad to help escaping slaves make the perilous journey to Canada and freedom. You know how proud I am to be the great, great granddaughter of an immigrant German who volunteered to be part of the Union Army to bring emancipation to Southern slaves.
You also know then I was raised by parents who were color blind, who judged people by their character and raised us the same way. Do you remember the one African American family in our small upstate NY town who were close friends with them? Ah, you will recall then how we spent the night at their home, ate their food and played with them. You’ll also remember how terrified I was the night a cross flamed angrily on the hill where their home stood. You also know how I learned a valuable lesson, at the age of 5, from a very angry pastor. I used the “N” word not understanding what it meant but I learned very quickly how I should never use it again because it was degrading and horrible.
Yes, it thrills me when you call me a racist and self-righteous. It was incredibly self-righteous of my parents to open our home every summer to an African American child from inner city New York so they could experience the fresh air of the country. We slept in the same room, talked and laughed into the night, played all day and attended church together without one thought we different other than where we lived.
Of course you remember how I was bussed during the days of segregation to a predominantly African American school just so the government could keep its quota and statistics in line. I don’t know how I survived with my racist, bigoted and self-righteous attitude.
I guess you understand then how I got my self-righteous attitude. I grew up in a family that didn’t have much, my “new” school clothes were hand-me-downs from other people in our church. I understood from a very young age if I wanted to get ahead in life I had to do well in school and work hard. When I went to college I had to rely on grants, scholarships and a part-time job. I didn’t get a full-time ride because I was an athlete.
When life “happened” and I had three young children to support I found a place to live in a government subsidized housing project where I lived alongside African American and Hispanic mothers trying to make a better life for their children. We weren’t white, black or Hispanic mothers; we were just mothers taking care of our children. You remember the disgusted looks and comments I got when I used food stamps to pay for groceries? Of course you recall the humiliation of using Medicaid to pay for my children’s doctor visits. Without a doubt you remember the shame I felt when a church group brought Christmas gifts for my children because I couldn’t afford to.
Once again I had to work hard and go to college so I could make a good life for my family. I was part of a group of single mothers–white, African American and Hispanic–who went to college during the day and worked part-time jobs to get out of the project. And we did by helping each other, sharing with each other and encouraging each. But you know that–I’m rehashing old news.
When my sons grew up and volunteered to serve this country, in the shadow of their ancestors, I’m sure you recall how their best friends, who “had their back” in war, were not white guys but African American and Hispanics. The same wonderfully brave young men I sent packages to because they didn’t have anyone to send them something. How utterly racist of me, how incredibly self-righteous. And you’ll remember the funeral I attended where a mother, like me, was handed a folded flag after her son’s battle bruised body was lowered in the ground. Yes, we wept racist, bigoted tears that day as I wrapped my white arms around her sobbing black body.
So, then, you understand how I have come to be the way I am. How when I see young men–groomed and preened and fawned over since high school and through college and into the NFL because of their ability to play a game–kneeling in protest over things most of them have never experienced it makes me a little self-righteously angry. When my sons choked on Iraqi dust and dodged bullets and IEDs, they were clutching a football and bathing in applause.
We live in the greatest country in the world. Its not perfect and it is flawed but it is still a beacon to millions of people who would die to stand on our soil and the only kneeling they would do would be in gratitude for the opportunities and freedom no matter how imperfect we are.