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Jett Superior laid this on you on || January 20, 2003 || 7:49 pm

‘Diplomatic’ is the peecee way of saying ‘peecee’.

If I titled all my entries that would be the header on this one. But I don’t, so there you have it.

Talking with my mother the other day, and her feeling my itch to get the hell on up outta Hellabama, led her to try and not-so-subtly nudge me in their direction. They recently moved most of their belongings out of the house in Memphis to a newly-purchased one up at the top of Arkansas, near one of my aunts and uncles, near one of my cousins. It is predicted that more of my aunts and uncles and mayhap even some cousins will end up there as well, an effective transplant of half of the relations from one part of the state to another.

What the fuck is the point? is what I want to ask them, but to each their own, you know?

Anyway, the region they moved to is nice, quiet, clean, on the edge of two smallish-but-big-enough cities. The small community that my parents now reside in is surrounded by even smaller communties by the name of Bono, Hoxie and Light. My dad jokes that he will be the Mayor of Light and we will change the Hoxie’s name to Moxie so that I can be the Mayor of Moxie, as those titles fit us wonderfully. What a card, right?

So my mom is on the nudge, something I’m unaccustomed to from her, and I’m trying with all my might to make her understand that I’m a Delta girl and even though she chooses to shuck her roots in order to become a rock farmer doesn’t mean that I have, or ever will, the inclination to do the same.

“Housing is so affordable here,” she says, to which I reply, “Well, then, the salaries aren’t all that great, now are they?” and she goes on to explain how “Nooooo, part of the low cost of housing is based on how much work a landlord has to put into a property, based on the condition it’s left in by the previous tenants, you know, based on the kind of people that occupy the property….you know what I mean.

Here I grind my teeth audibly and say, in a very crisp voice, “Yes mother, I know what, in your passive racist, bigoted way, you are trying to say.” Subject change.

It was the first time I’d ever called my mom a bigot, strung her up in the word racist, out loud. She knows my feelings on the word ‘nigger’, has for several years now, but I’ve only started voicing my opinion to extended family as of late.

“Look,” I told my cousin Johnno last Spring, “I don’t want my kids raised the way I was with regard to this: ‘Be respectful of EVERYONE, but it’s okay to insert the word ‘nigger’ into a sentence like any other ole noun.’ ” He nodded. “I getcha, Bit. Not many of them (tipping his head toward the knot of family in the yard) will, though.”

Sometimes, when I think really hard about it, it just astounds me. I come from good people. A family that started up in this country as slaves themselves, worked themselves into lowly sharecropperhood, worked themselves into their own little bit of land, worked themselves into owning most of a town, then all of a town. I have a family full of self-made folks; they own businesses and are well-known, well-respected members of a community that they give back to in money and in spirit. Many of them have black friends. I just don’t get it, I don’t get how this dichotomy works for them. Hell, my dad is of mostly Cherokee stock, and he knows the sting of words and deeds against one person based on their bloodlines, knows the rage of a people shunned and mishandled. My father, as well, he grew up poor white trash, but to this day he won’t wear a pair of chinos because all the black boys in his neck of the woods wore them as he was coming up and “I don’t wear nigger pants.” What the fuck?? Yet I remember some very nice chino-pantsed black gentlemen that he hunted and fished and played poker with.

My kids, until about two years ago, hadn’t really ever heard the word. I put the uncle that used it on notice: we don’t use that word here. He didn’t apologize, but he hasn’t yet uttered it in my home again, either. Still, I was left explaining it to my children over dinner one night when Scout, who never misses a thing, asked me in her dusky-soft voice what it meant. I put down my fork and a long, looooong discussion ensued. I told them some about how I was raised with this word being just any ole word and about how Miss Frances turned me slap around with one kind gesture and about how I was ashamed of none of my family, but this one thing brought me very near to it and made me incredibly, hopelessly sad.

They are good people, children, good GOOD people, but this is wrong and won’t ever be right. Just like, I might add, that the way that I am presumed to be the bad guy because of the color of my skin when I am the only white face in a sea of black ones. I’ve had that happen, too, on more than one occasion, with no provocation whatsoever. But that is another issue for another time, as I can’t possibly cover them all in one fell swoop.

When I was at my aunt and uncle’s house the day after Christmas, with four cousins and another aunt and uncle present, discussion turned to (as it always does) other members of the family, what they were up to, what they did wrong, what they did right. The subject of new and fairly-new babies came up, and the conversation took a natural turn toward my cousin Brennan and her choices as of late.

“She just started datin’ them ole black fellas to get a rise outta Romey and now look what!” one of my uncles said indignantly.

“What?” say I, the family current events dummy. I am, after all, the one who has sent a Christmas card to my cousin Kerry and her husband Hootie for the last two years, when they’ve been divorced for going on three years now. Thanks for telling me the important shit, ma!!

So, it is quickly explained to me that ole Brennan’s runnin’ loose! makin’ like a crazy person! dating alla these black fellas, not one white boy in the bunch! and has now settled down with one! and just had her second baby with ‘im! “She just did it to spite her daddy,” my uncle concludes. I shake my head, puzzled.

“Wait,” I say, sour look on my face, and my cousin Chris shifts in the expensive leather recliner where she is seated because she knows what’s coming. “Wait a minute,” and I scrunch up my nose, looking into the sky in extreme concentration before settling my gaze on my uncle, then on the other people in the room, one by(God) one.

“Is Bren happy?” My question couldn’t have startled them more if I had shot sparks out my ass while I’d asked it. My Aunt Ev, the quiet gal, but the keeper of the family record and all-around go-to person, shrugged and said, “Well, yeah, she seems to be.” And the natural progression was, to me anyway, to ask about Brennan’s well-being, did this guy treat her right? Respect her? Take care of her and the babies? Was he an asshole, did he beat the wife and younguns? Drink and carouse and fool around on Bren, the way my own father had been known to do up until such time as my momma broke a good crockery pitcher over his head, packed his bags whilst he was passed out and rolled him out onto the veranda?

I was assured that none of this was the case, that he never disrespected his family, that they have a fine (albeit meager) home, that he works and provides and takes care of his own in a loving fashion. So of course I found it necessary to ask, “Then what’s the problem?” and point out the simple fact that she’s done one better than Romey’s wife, because he verbally berates my fine aunt and basically acts like a shit, out of hat and for kicks.

Woo! the sound of crickets, y’all. And the requisite topic change. But at the next gathering of folks I can just hear it, I can hear about how I’ve become a liberal do-gooder or somesuch and how I’ve come to support my cousin’s nigger-lovin’ ways even though we never have gotten along to a drastic extent over the years.

And hell, they won’t really say all that, but it just may be implied. Maybe.

One of these days, ohhhhh, one of these days I plan on rocking them back on their collective heels with the fact that, given a choice as a mother, I would rather have any of my children bring home a person of color that respects them and treats them lovingly and well than some white trash bullshit piece of work that mires them down for the rest of their natural born days in ugly living and even uglier feelings. The days that they will be bringing someone home are far enough away for this thought to be steeped in fantasy, but near enough that I’ve pondered the scenarios.

I’ve always loved little cafe au lait babies and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings any to rock some to sleep, to have them call me memaw. The only condition I place on this is that my children be grown and some semblance of educated (keep in mind that ‘educated’ wears many frocks) and able to provide for a family from an emotional and financial standpoint.

I think on the fact that my son has two best friends, one is Irish and as white as the down feathers I lie my head upon each night and the other is Hispanic and has dark, merry eyes. They all act boy-like and unencumbered when they are together, which is essentially a nice way of saying ‘foolish’. I think of how, if I were the person I was some five years ago, my son would be deprived of John, the boy who teaches my boy dirty words in Spanish with a mischevious glint in his eye and tells him that he is saying ‘Hellohowareyoukindsir?’, as a best friend. That kid comes from one of the best, most solid homes I know. He’s a damned good boy. He is well-mannered, cares deeply about the welfare of his younger sister, gets good grades, takes up for my son when some child of a hillbilly idiot runs roughshod over my boy’s feelings or makes fun of a flare-up of Tourette-related tics. My son, were I inclined to follow in bigotry’s footsteps –’diplomatic bigotry’ or not– would be deprived of a really wonderful person.

I’m trying, Lord knows I’m trying to get past the ‘old school of thought’, trying to chink away at all the ugliness, however slight it may be.

I got good people, and they’re better than all the foolish nonsense that they learned way back when.

pee ess…on behalf of my extended family, Happy Robert E. Lee’s birthday!! (Maxim said you will all be offended by that bit and I said ’since when have I cared about that?’ and he said ‘never.’ and I said ‘damn right, fool, and besides, all those people know I’m a tactless idiot with a fine sense of wry humor and if they don’t get it they can tell me to fuck off or send me hate mail, whichever they prefer.’ and he said ‘there’s just no telling you ANYTHING, wake me when you come to bed so that we can take a tumble’ and that was that.)

5 worked it out »

  1. April Love 1.20.2003

    My family is exactly the same way. And I too am considered the liberal asshole for trying to show them how wrong that they are. Keep teaching your children the great beliefs you hold dear. They are what made me like you so much.

  2. Tim 1.21.2003

    Man, I do love me a good pair of chinos. Itsy Bitsy’s the best! While you’re at it, can you call my mumma an’ tell her to stop saying the N word too?

  3. waistdog 1.21.2003

    My dream for some of the more prejudiced white people of the world, would be that God turns out to be a black lesbian.

  4. reva 1.22.2003

    I’m so glad that to see that you are making the effort to teach your children to judge people for who they are, and not the color of their skin. My family is mixed on both sides, but if you ask them they will say we are black. It took me years of digging to find out my true heritage. And the fact that I’m black, irish, and cherokee. It was hidden away like some dirty little secret for whatever reason. I grew up with a racist mother. She cannot stand white people. She never acts that way outwardly. But some of the conversations we have had at home, it becomes very apparent. I’ll post more about this at my site. Anyways, kaos to you!

  5. Jett 1.24.2003

    waisty: or a midget rassler with green hair…



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