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Jett Superior laid this on you on || October 24, 2001 || 11:08 pm

Maxim is horrified that I had not one, but two black nannies as a child. Had I just simply had nannies, no matter their number, he would nonplussed. The fact that my nannies were both black women, one in her fifties, the other in her early twenties, causes him to recoil.

“Lemme get this straight,” he says, each and every time the matter happens to come up, “Your caregivers, employed in your home, were black?” He says this not from a bigot’s standpoint, but from the standpoint of one disarmed and dismayed at the concept of having household help of color in the early seventies. As if my parents were big ole slave-trading fools and these women weren’t paid quite well for the trouble of caring for me, for enveloping me in their arms and allowing me to be carried in their hearts. Heh. This from a man who was raised in a mountain community that didn’t have one black student enrolled in ANY of the schools he attended, K on up through 12. Go figger.

Lately I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the manner in which I was raised, and for the most part I have no complaints. The one thing that dogs my my heart, however, is the way that the word ‘nigger’ and all its’ connotatations were thrown about in the household while I was a child. Hell, while I was a teenager. How it was a belief system that was basically unchallenged by me for many years that black people were inferior in some way. Largely unspoken, yes, but it was there nonetheless.

My parents had black friends, Okay, lemme just say something right here and now, because I can just see you, tongue-in-cheek, judging-judging-judging away while the thought, “Wellll….she does hail from a Southern family, after all….” chugs through your conscious brain. I have stomped all over this great globe of ours, but what I refer to will stay within the confines of Our United States. That reference being this: I have discovered patent, dogged racism is not limited to or carried more brazenly by or even alarmingly more prevalent in those due south of the Mason-Dixon line. Worrrd.

As I was saying, my parents had black friends, friends that they worked and socialized with, friends they respected. There was a subtle little line, though, and it oh-so-plainly emerged when I was planning my rather largish first wedding. The intended best man was black, and as I was reviewing the schedule for dances at the reception, my ma pulled a big fucking Whoa Nelly when I got to the part that entailed both she and I dancing with him in turns.

“You remember Mr. and Ms. So-and-so that your father and I used to go out with when you were a child?” Yes, momma, I remember. “Well, in all those times out with them, all the dancing we did, I never danced with Mr. So-and-so and your father never danced with Ms. So-and-so. They never broached the subject, and neither did we. It was simply understood that it just wasn’t done. It just isn’t done.” What followed was a quiet, nonetheless vehement, terse row between us. I said very ugly things about not intending to rip off my veil and lie down on the floor, crinolines raised and legs akimbo, to take some yummy ole down-and-dirty chocolate lovin’ like a good little subservient white bitch and didn’t she understand that it was JUST a DANCE, one eensy DANCE, and forgodsakes Derek is futurehubby’sbestfriend??!!

I threw out every single bit of logic I could fathom and when she ran out of answers, the fact was concretely raised that the redneck-cum-crossburning segment of the family would certainly be there and after a few drinks from the open bar would certainly be outrageous in their behavior if any white girl present (much less me, supposedly the female pride and joy of our overlarge extended family) was squired onto the dance floor by a large, handsome black d00d, fellow Marine or not, in uniform or not. Defeated, I could not argue with that. As much as I loved a good melee, I didn’t think it would make for great pictures for the kids or stories for future grandbabies. Thusly defeated, I placed a moratorium on dancing and nixed all booze as well. This negated the necessity for a rented hall, so the reception was oh-so-conveniently shucked into the church’s reception area. My mom used the location as an excuse for no dancing, no booze, not telling anyone that I had dug in my heels and marched down to get a refund on the rented place before she knew anything about it. *snicker* I used that money to order new invitations and threw the old ones with the former plans into the dumpster at work.

The Big Cosmic Fuck You was that Derek ended up being shipped out on a WESTPAC tour and couldn’t get leave for the date of the wedding. Anyway. Any. Way.

Despite my show of equality, I long carried my parents’ belief system with me. While I had black friends and party buddies, I would have never dated someone of color, and I can say in all honesty now, as an adult, that it was not simply for fear of familial castigation or excommunication. It had been ingrained in me from the time I was small that I was expressly forbidden to date outside my color lines. There was a definite recoil at the notion. Funny that, as I am a mutt of the highest order, born of dichotomous ancestry: Native American, Irish, German, Italian.

In all honesty, the most blatant acts of racism I’ve seen in my life have been initiated by someone black, aiming hostility at someone white. This fed my parental-fueled off-kilter way of thinking for the longest time. Maxim used to get absolutely FURIOUS with me when the word ‘nigger’ crossed my lips, usually flung out in disgust or as a pitying aside. Carelessness with words. Inexcusable, as words have an innate power, no matter what those “sticks-and-stones” bastards say. I cringe now, quite sickened, even as I think of it.

I know this is going on looooong, so I will tell you of my own personal little road to Damascus next time around. It completely revamped my thinking and happened only a couple of years ago….

Nobody worked it out »

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