Explaining Why I Refused To Be Like Them

Over the last 50 years so much of our culture has changed that it is almost impossible to remember how things used to be. If this is so for us, how much more will things change in the next 50 years? I am not just a Genealogist, I am also a Historian of sorts. I believe that I have a responsibility to my descendants to tell them how things were when I was growing up and how it impacted my life and the decisions I have made.

wpaMO320I was born in Missouri but my parents moved our family to Arizona when I was 11 months old. They bought a house outside the Tucson City limits in a new sub-division just north of the Papago (Tohono O’odam) Indian Reservation. I attended the newly built Mary Lynn Elementary School that was about 3 blocks from our home. It was a very diverse school, as a matter of fact Anglo kids were the minority. I grew up with friends of Native American, Hispanic, African American, Chinese and Anglo ancestry. We all seemed to get along very well.

At least that was at school. At home I experienced a totally different atmosphere. Both of brownie troopmy parents were born and raised in Missouri. I do not know what may have happened in their lives to make them this way, but they both were the most racist people I ever knew! Every joke told at home was racist. Remarks were made about people in the grocery store or at the gas station who were “different” from us. I was so confused. According to my parents ¾ of my friends were sub-human, but according to my experiences 100% of them were MY friends! It was very frustrating.

When I was 12 years old our family moved back to Missouri. I was in shock! I had never seen a school with all white kids before. I felt so out of place. I listened to my older relatives talk and I realized they all felt like my parents! At that point I determined it must have just been the way they were raised. I can remember one incident where an Hispanic boy started school and he ended up in my class. I was so happy! I spent his whole first day talking to him. At the end of the day I was given a note to take home to my parents. It was a warning that if I continued to fraternize with this young man I would be suspended from school! My parents laid down the law and I begrudgingly submitted.

Over the course of the next 7 years we moved first to California, then after the death of my Dad we moved back to Tucson. During our time in California I guess you could say I became a “rebel”. I once again had friends of diverse races and to my parents horror I even dated some!

me & George 1987

Me & George 1987

The reason I want to share these experiences with the future generations is I believe I learned a valuable lesson in having to make a decision to not accept my parents racists views. I understand that try as we might, we can not legislate tolerance or acceptance. It has to be a change of the heart and a love for our fellow man, no matter what their ancestry is. This stance has not always gone over well, especially with my mother. 30 years ago, after I became a widow with 3 children, she disowned me because I married an Hispanic man. We are still married and I do not regret the decision I made. I now have 9 beautiful Grandchildren, 3 of them are white, 2 are half-black and 4 are half gypsy. We are one big, very happy, loving family!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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7 Comments

Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, History, Memories, Personal Stories

7 responses to “Explaining Why I Refused To Be Like Them

  1. Joan

    Your story is so similar to mine. Whenever times got tough, my father used to say, “at least we’re not (add any racial slur here)”. I’ve come to believe that it was his way of lifting himself out of the very poor circumstances he grew up in. He may have been dirt poor, or without much education and from a broken home followed by a series of step-father’s but at least he was white! I too was a rebel and because of my ideals and relationships was disowned by my family. Hate causes so much hurt, even to those we are supposed to love.

  2. A very nice post. It reminds me on how our walk through life shapes who we each are. Some for good some not so much.

  3. An excellent if sobering post…it is quite shocking how engrained some of these attitudes still are after all these years. obviously your mother couldn’t risk losing her prejudices enough to get to know your husband. The world is a strange place!

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