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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Positive Truth

I have spent a lot of time in my life lamenting the failures of the adults in my childhood. These failures certainly formed the neurotic adult that I was to become. As I age, am more reflective and contemplative though, it occurs to me that many of those failures were gifts. I grew up in a very secretive family. Absolutely everything was absolutely no ones business. There were never discussions about world events, politics or anything of genuine substance in our home. I have often wondered how I made it to a horrific revelation at age 12 that the Holocaust was a thing without ever having been told by then. Likewise, how did I make it to 5th grade without understanding slavery? I realize now that it was because my home lacked any sincere acknowledgment of anything beyond what affected its members directly.

I am grateful for this neglect. As I grew older and started to understand the world and the opinions of those who shaped mine, I also started to realize that I was given a life opportunity as a curious and thoughtful human being to enter society and seek my own answers. When, in 4th grade, schools on the "other side of town" were closed and its students bussed to our stark white district, I didn't understand why all of the parents in the neighborhood were so upset. And in 5th grade when a new teacher and principal came to my school I wasn't sure why those parents were upset again. I don't know how I missed the fact that they were all black. I'm sure that my mind realized that their skin was black, but I had no reason to interpret that as a negative.

I knew from around the 2nd grade that the N-word was a bad one. I had no understanding of its meaning, however. My brother and I were walking home from school one day and I can still remember the seemingly innocuous event vividly: We were saying bad words back and forth to one another. I don't remember our having been arguing and throwing barbs, it was more of an attempt to show off to one another with no fear of getting in trouble as it was just the two of us. We were in front of the Antenucci's old house and I said the N-word. I didn't know what it meant, but I knew it was bad. Scott turned around quickly and scolded me "No," he said, "That's a really bad one. You can't ever say that." I felt guilty and I wasn't sure what I had done. We were supposed to be saying bad words, right? He explained that this was a word that was worse than bad and it should never be spoken. Although Scott was only 5 days older than myself, he was always more aware of things than I was. He had recently broke the news to me about Santa, as well. He told me that the N-word was a bad word to call a black person. I wondered out loud why black people needed a bad word? And what is a white persons bad word? He didn't have answers for those last two questions but reiterated the importance of the lesson about the word I was never to repeat.

A few years later, armed only with the knowledge of that evil word and with a heart felt love for Michael Jackson, I went to visit my mother who lived in Cincinnati and her latest husband for a two week stay in the summer. I packed my teen fan magazines full of MJ posters and trivia and headed down for what was sure to be a boring visit. Since the walk home with Scott years earlier I hadn't heard the N-word. Carl, my mothers new husband, yelled the word at me when he saw the magazines I was showing my new cousins, his nieces. I had already quickly learned during my visit that when he was done every day with with work, he would have a drink of something kids weren't allowed to have. It was called J&B and it smelled awful. I also came to realize that he drank it all night every night. I wasn't used to seeing people get drunk and had no idea that the drinks were what made him so mean as each night wore on. The day he saw me with my magazines he screamed the N-word at me repeatedly. I wasn't even sure what he was yelling at me for but I knew two things: 1. He was using the word no one was supposed to ever use and 2. He was not my father. (As an aside I will acknowledge here that all adults in my life had attempted to make me a more respectful person and I tried to be whenever possible, but, much to the chagrin of many who have loved me, sometimes I found/find this impossible). Although I didn't understand why he was mad or even what point he was trying to make, I screamed at Carl about how only bad people use that word. I told him he should be ashamed of himself and if he wanted to say awful things like that I didn't want to be at his house. He hated kids. I didn't just give him a threat, I had opened a door that he was happy to shove me through.

I was immediately packed up and sent back to Alliance. I was seething because I was so mad. My dad drove the long trip to get me and I learned a hard lesson that day on the way back to Alliance: My parents, who had never taught me that hate was okay, we're quite serious about the whole "respect your elders" bit. No matter what, apparently. I also learned that my mom in Cincinnati didn't care enough about my feelings to ever say a word in my defense. She just wanted this ridiculous choice for her most recent husband to be happy. (Thank God she never wanted custody of me in the divorce with my dad. But that's another story). My dad told me that I was disrespecting Carl in his home. I was so confused and was too naive and too immature to form the words to explain my frustrations to my dad. Why can anyone say that word? Scott was very adamant about that point. It was the worst of all the bad words and no one should say that one. Why is Carl allowed to yell at me and call me an "N-lover?" As simple as it sounds to work out the meaning of that hyphenated word now, I honestly couldn't that day. So loving black people is bad? And when people are mean and hateful I am supposed to ignore it? I found this unacceptable. I loved my father and I did respect him but this was the first time that I remember being sure that either he didn't understand what had just happened or my father was wrong. Both were hard to come to terms with.



19 comments:

  1. Deep! Maybe you should write a book.

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    1. Thank you, Jamie. I live to write but I'm sure I don't have a whole book in me. Lol.

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  2. Felt like I was reading a chapter from a novel Angie. VERY DEEP and want to read more. Love you girl😘

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    1. Heather!! You just made my day!! Thank you.

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  3. I'm so proud of you for taking this "leap" to finding some resolve. You have a gift and I am grateful that you have shared it with us. Like Heather said, I "want to read more."

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    1. Ang, you know more than anyone how much I need to find a positive outlet. Your support means the whole world. Thank you!

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  4. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

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  5. You put words to how many have felt growing up. I remember having confusion as well. You are beautifully written and I bet you could do a book with sequels. Thanks for the invite

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  6. Lisa, that means the world to me. You have no idea. Thank you so much.

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  7. WOW what a perspective...honestly I think the part that struck me the most was the last few sentences. We all reach that turning point where we create our own morals and values that may slightly differ (or drastically differ) from parent(s)...that was your moment!

    ~Rachelle

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  8. Thank you, Rachelle. This was very hard to write and the last sentences were my revelation. I'm so glad you enjoyed and understood it.

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  9. Where are the previous posts?

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    1. Rik. Thank you so much for your interest in my blog. A Positive Truth was my first entry. I hope you come back in the future as I add more. 😊

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    2. Angie,
      You are welcome. I am surprised because your writing eloquence and story are of high writers quality. Some readers suggested you write more. I feel there are some really good books in

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    3. you. I am looking forward to reading them.

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    4. I'm always uncomfortable receiving compliments. I'm working on it, though. I can't even tell you how much your words and support mean. I love writing and these affirmations tell me I might be on the right track here. Many sincere thanks.

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    5. I identify. I hope to read more sooner than later... No pressure, just anticipation with joy.

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