Monday, May 13, 2013

RERUN


Did you ever have a post in mind but for the life of you, you can't make it work. No editing, rewriting, or red penciling can make it anything you want to sign your name to. That happened this week so the intended post will simmer in the draft drawer for a while longer. Maybe later, maybe never, but definitely not now. Instead, I will post a rerun from my first weeks of blogging when I had just 4 followers, only two of which are still with me.  Judy and Robin, thank you so much for hanging in with me for so long.  you are excused today. 



THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 2009


HOW BAD CAN LEAD TO GOOD

 This is a story from my youth that brought me to a turning point in my life. I am not proud of it at all, but since it made me what I am, I don't regret the results, just the actions.  

I am the daughter of white supremacists. No, not the skin head variety, but of people who definitely felt they were the superior race. My parents came from slave holder families. My brothers actually got to sit on the lap of Julia who had been my mother's nanny. She was in her nineties then.

 She and her husband George were former slaves who had stayed with our family when the emancipation came. They both lived into their late nineties. She passed right before before I was born. It  was a huge regret for me not to actually meet, touch and listen to living history.

While my parents truly felt  to be members of the superior race, they would never tolerate cruelty. If a sibling used the "N" word, he was punished. Any derogatory remarks were met with instant rebuke. My parents were kindly but none the less, felt they were higher up the ladder and that blacks were just not quite human.  They treated blacks as one would a pet. With kindness but certain they were  not on the same level.

I never saw a black person up close and personal till the 2nd grade. That meeting happened in a very small, rural Ohio school.  Our school had approximately 10 kids per class and two classes per room. 

In the middle of the second grade, the Henry family moved into our area  and were my first experience with blacks. There were eight Henrys, one child per class. We rode the same school bus and it was amusing each morning as the bus had to wait while one Henry after another ran down the long hill towards the bus. You could just imagine a harried Mrs. Henry trying to get all 8 kids ready for school.

Henrietta, as I will call her, was in my class. I was fascinated with her for as I said, she was my first experience with blacks. I noticed she always kept to her self so one day, I took my jacks over to her and asked her to play. 
Not my picture of jacks. From eHow.
She was blessed with a marvelous sense of humor , creativity and quickly became my favorite playmate. This only went on for a week or so when I was pulled aside by a group of my classmates.

"My mother said I can't play with you anymore." informed Mary Ann as the rest of my friends bobbed their heads in agreement.

"Why" I asked totally stunned.

"Because you play with Henrietta." was the only explanation. " Unless you stop, we can't be friends." Again the heads all bobbed in unison and they walked away.

I didn't know what to do so I brought the subject up at the family dinner that night.  I was stunned when my parents agreed with my friends. I tried to explain how nice Henrietta was and that I liked her. She was just like me only with a better tan. They carefully drew the lines of behavior expected of me.

The next day, I walked up to Henrietta and sadly told her my decision. 
"I can't play with you any more," I told her and gave her the reasons.

Tears formed in her dark eyes and she only said,"I thought you were different," and she walked away.

Henrietta and I never made up but from that day forward I carried a terrible burden. I tried to bridge the chasm many times but the hurt I caused would not allow it. The Henrys eventually moved away.

What it did do for me was to vow at that young age, never to let others do my thinking for me, even my parents. In the years to follow, I became a beloved thorn in my parents side. We never agreed on race relations but we continued to love each other. My guilt and disapproval of my own behavior drove me to actively promote tolerance. They continued to sadly shake their heads over  their stubborn daughter.

Henrietta, where ever you are, I am so very sorry for the pain I caused, but I thank you for opening my eyes.

39 comments :

  1. My father was extremely intolerant of any non-white person. Because of him and his unkind muttered under his breath and very embarrassing (to me) remarks at times, I became, in turn, his thorn. Unfortunately, in his eyes, I was no longer beloved. So be it. The only way we can change hatred and bigotry is refusing to remain quiet and accepting of that behavior in others.

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  2. I am so glad you re posted this amazing tale....I was not a follower back when you started and would have hated not to have read this. I first saw a black face when I was four and could not stop pointing at him ...I still remember it was in a large Post Office and I too remember my mothers embaracement. I dont think we looked down on blacks but I remember the bigotry that was present when I was a teen. I dont even remember any black faces at school...except a little boy who came from Celon and we just thought he had a great sun tan!!
    How life changed in London during the following 5 decades ....and then I moved to Scotland and it was like reversing back through 3 of them when the corner shop was owned by an asian family but anyone darker was a rarer sight.
    I think I would still reget the lost friendship ... and why ...too xx btw I loved 'jacks'

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  3. You have just posted this after I watched "Call the Midwife" last night, set in the fifties in London's East End. A young black woman, very pregnant, suffered terrible indignities because of her color, but in the end she was befriended by a white woman. I loved jacks, too, and you've given me a good idea for a post! :-)

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  4. This is a very powerful story. I am so glad that you posted again because it certainly deserves a wider audience.

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  5. I grew up having people of color around. We had a black family that lived nearby and my dad hired the men to help him with farm work until my brothers were old enough.

    What sticks out in my mind was that at the big noon meal my mother cooked everyday, the blacks ate separate from the rest of us. That was just the way it was in those days. But, as a child, I didn't understand why and always felt bad about it.

    I will say that my dad always got along with non-whites, as long as they were good and decent people. That went for white people, as well. He didn't "suffer fools gladly" as the saying goes, and if someone crossed him then look out!

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  6. This is a wonderful lesson on learning tolerance while in the cradle of intolerance. We have similar stories in our family. I just hope each generation goes beyond just being tolerant to building strong relationships between language and racial groups that are different from our own.

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  7. Such a burden for a young child to bear. Yet, we were brought up to respect our elders and thought they were right. Come to find out... they are only human with lots of human flaws

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  8. While intolerance existed in Sweden too, there were lots of Nazis there, for example, I never had to deal with inheriting all that slavery brought to this country.

    I wonder why some, like you, found the right path based on your experiences, while others stay mired in the racism they learned as children.

    In Princeton, I was in love with a local young man. When his parent's very ancient Chinese "houseboy" (that's what they called him) retired, his mom told me that she did not know how to "handle" blacks and therefore didn't know who to hire to replace this old man (houseboys I guess were becoming a thing of the past). Anyway, as I discussed this comment with my boyfriend, I realized he saw blacks the same way your parents did, as children, unable to function without the great white father, as my husband, who is Creole, calls some white men. I broke up with the guy!

    And good for you, I love the way you think and the woman you became. I had no idea this was in your background. A great post!!!

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  9. It was like that, back then. I remember a housekeeper who came once a week when I was in high school. My mother called her the maid. She arrived by bus, changed into her working clothes in "the maid's room" (that was really what it was called, in the North Carolina military base where we lived then). She ate lunch by herself and went home at the end of the day. I never thought of her as a person to know.

    Glad things have changed since then.

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  10. What a touching post and your spirit's showing through, becoming an advocate so young and allowing your one bad experience to keep you from any others. I'm happy to be here visiting.

    Manzanita sent me (and every other reader who visits her blog today) with her kind shout outs about your writing. :)

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  11. Patti, As you know, I have a biracial granddaughter. We talk about such things. I'm not proud of all of our history, but it is still history. Thankfully times are changing.

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  12. I think intolerance still lives in human hearts, but to be able to write about it, talk about it, think about it, and become aware of our own actions is a positive step. Well told, Patti!

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  13. What an honest gal you are. I lived in the south during the desegregation and it was tough. My grandson learned and studied about all the struggles this year in history. Very interesting. sandie

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  14. I grew up in much the same kind of household. My mother did pride herself on allowing Emmaline to sit at the kitchen table to eat her lunch. My parents made fun of Martin Luther King and resented the intrusion of "those Northerners coming down South to stir up things". Even today, my mother's only surviving sibling insists that America is not ready for a black President.

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  15. I am glad our society has evolved. I am sure there is still room for growth but I am happy to say my friends with kids expect their children to treat everyone equally.

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  16. Oh, how hard that must have been for you to have to tell Henrietta you could no longer play with her. It had to have been painful for you both. What a hard place you were in to have to make such a choice. I was looked down on and talked about by a lot of my family members when we adopted a baby of color. That is when I found out that some of my family was very intolerant of people of color. Some of my ancestors also had slaves. Thank you for re-posting this very touching story sweet Patti. Hugs

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  17. The fact that you were the only one who played with a "different" classmate is evidence that your character was already set to recognize and accept the good in people.

    What an important decision you made and followed so early in life.

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  18. Hello! Very nice blog and interesting posts, great atmosphere.
      Have a nice day. :)
    Welcome to our blog about photography. +
    I hope you also enjoy it with us.

    Greetings!

    "Do what you love is not even that, but anyway"

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  19. Linda,
    Good to know another thorn. Sorry however that it caused a such breach in your relationship.

    Angie,
    I did the same thing when I saw my first black man. Also when I learned what a pregnant woman was and persisted in pointing at all over weight women and saying out loud, "look Mom, she is going to have a baby."

    Djan,
    Oh yes, the 50's were bad but also the beginning of change. You, Angie and I could play a game.

    Olga,
    Thank you Olga. That was very early in my blogging career.

    Cheryl,
    Your dad had the right idea. Judge by actions not color and whites not getting a free pass.

    Sally,
    I do believe we get more tolerant with each generation. Hopefully someday----

    My Journey With Candida,
    Welcome to TNS. Always nice to meet new folks. It is hard going against our parents but sometimes we just know what is right and what is not.

    Inger,
    I think some are bombarded with hatred while in my case, my parents were more passive in their prejudices.
    Sounds like you made a good choice.
    Thank you and glad you think so.

    Linda Myers,
    You certainly were not alone. It was a sign of the times.

    mail4rosie,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and following. Also for letting me know about the sweet shout out Manzi gave me. I wouldn't have known till evening when I do my reading. What a neat surprise.

    turquoisemoon,
    The key word is history. We are not there yet but we have come so very far. She should have a much easier time. Each generation gets better.

    Barb,
    You are right, it is there but it has soften so very much since my day. There are those who will never change but the younger generation gives me hope.

    Sandie,
    Interesting that the times we grew up in are now studied as history. Those were hard and violent at times and while we are not there yet, we are closer.

    NCmountainwoman,
    I know how you feel. Arkansas still has deep pockets of prejudice but it has improved so much since the days of the Little Rock nine.

    islandwonder,
    Yes Suz, there is such hope for our young people. I see it too.

    Mumsy,
    I know the interaction hurt her more than me. I knew I was wrong and made strides to change those around me. She just received one more emotional beat down from a supposed friend. That had to be more damaging. I am so sorry your family still holds those beliefs.

    LC
    Unfortunately, my first decision was a bad one. The good I received was that it corrected my direction while it was still easy to.

    Patrycja Photography
    Thank you for stopping by TNS. Welcome.

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  20. Such a sad tale, my dear Patti....I am grateful that THAT was never part of my upbringing....As Oscar Hammerstein wrote---"You've Got To Be Taught" in "SOUTH PACIFIC"....these things are passed on from one generation to another---And very young, too....
    It is a miracle that you not only survived all that, but moved so very far away from that Horrendous thinking!

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  21. What a neat post. Glad you republished it, Patti. I was lucky in that I never experienced racism at all. We had a nice black family across the street --and my parents never ever expressed any 'hard' feelings toward them. Things were segregated though ---and we had all-black churches and all-black schools back then... SO--I don't know what happened in that area once things were integrated... I did have an experience when I was an adult --where a friend of mine who was black, was not allowed in someone's home because she was black. I was appalled.. Racism is still with us unfortunately.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  22. Aw Patti...I wasn't a follower when you wrote this and I agree with others that I am glad that you chose to repost.
    My father was very much like Linda Brauns Dad. It was very difficult to take his "awfulness" and not come away with the complete opposite point of view.
    I'm sure he's spinning in a very hot locale at the fact that his great grandkids are completely color blind and accept everyone on the basis of their kindness not skin color. At least it makes me proud to think he would be offended. Shame on my name, not.
    This was a terrific post. Thanks again. Oma Linda

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  23. I too have regrets that date back to childhood, and resulted from doing the wish of others when it was wrong. It is sad not being able to wind back the clock and put things right for people that we hurt, but wonderful to have the chance to help others because we learned from our mistakes. Pxx

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  24. Thanks for the re post as I wouldn't have had the opportunity to read it otherwise.
    My mother who was raised in the South, and I'm her thorn for ever more...

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  25. I am grateful my parents raised us with the understanding we are all equal! That was a hard lesson for you to learn. We aren't always taught what is truly right, yet despite that, you were able to see the wrong and change your thinking. You should be proud of that!

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  26. What a touching story that brought tears to my eyes. I am grateful that hubby's white family welcomed me as their Korean daughter-in-law. In fact, their other son married a Japanese woman. We are all Americans, after all.

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  28. Naomi,
    Fortunately we were able, especially as I got older, to agree to disagree. I was very lucky in that respect.

    Betsy,
    It is just so awful when we see hatred in action. I am so sorry for your friend and that you had to witness that.

    Linda Wildenstein,
    Isn't it wonderful how many kids today are making their ancestors spin? The young will lead the way.

    Peter,
    Pretty sure we all have things in our past we would rather not be there. I'm with you on wanting do overs. Unfortunately we can only go forward.

    Brighid.
    I am so pleased with how many thorns are among my blog buddies. We are a regular garden of roses.

    Jewels,
    You were fortunate to have such tolerant parents. I knew when I did it that it was wrong. As Peter said, too bad we don't get to rewind.

    gigi,
    Yes! We are all Americans and all just human beings. The blood flowing under the skin is the same color. So glad you found tolerance with your in-laws. They must be wonderful people.

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  29. Dear Arkansas Patti, this moving and touching testimony clearly shows the truth of the Rogers and Hammerstein song from "South Pacific": "You have to be taught to hate. You have to be carefully taught."

    The beauty here is that your soul was so innocent and so pure that you recognized how you'd hurt Henrietta and you determined to act differently in the future.

    Learning tolerance at such a young age has surely helped mold you into the woman you are today. Thank you for sharing this poignant story. Peace.

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  30. Another Patti with an "i!" Saw you on Terri's blog, and had to come "meet" you. What a touching post "Rerun." My heart hurt for both you and "Henrietta."

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  31. I am so glad posted this, although I am slow in getting here.

    There was a incident after I moved to Arkansas in my late 40's which this story exemplifies. I really can't write about it as subjects are friends and read my blog would identify themselves and I might have a cross burning in my yard.

    Actually the principle character is deceased as and the mistreated person(s)were only visitors to our area

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  32. Hi Patti,
    Me again! Thank you for your kind comments on my site. When I posted about Ginger and Nigella, I often thought of you and your animal friends, and it was nice to think that we were sharing our adventures with you. Now that Ginger is gone, Nigella is a bit "clingy" and we are all adjusting to things. Such a lot to be thankful for though. Pxx

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  33. I grew up exactly the opposite. My parents believed all God's children were equal. I am from PA and had friends who were black.

    I am impressed that, at such a young age, you made such a mature decision for yourself. It is a reflection of the wise woman you have become, my friend...

    xxoo,

    RMW

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  34. My mother worked when I was growing up. Most of the sitters she hired for my sister and me were black. The summer that "Bessie" stayed with us, I asked her about her family and she told me that she had seven children. "Who takes care of them?" I asked her. She said that they took care of each other. I asked could they come and play with me. The next day, a black girl about my age climbed over the back fence and smiled shyly. We had a marvelous time playing. The day after, she returned, along with a sister and a little brother in tow. Pretty soon, all seven were showing up every day. What fun!!! A neighbor complained to my mother, so it came to a hasty end.

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  35. Dee,
    You and Naomi both mentioned that song. I remember the first time I heard it how it resonated with me. We do pop out of the womb pretty much a clean slate.

    pattisjarrett,
    Thank you so much and welcome to TNS. Love to meet new people, especially those with cool names.

    Carol,
    Those feelings do run deep. I hope you find a way to tell the story.

    Peter,
    I do so feel for you. I lost Mickey this year pretty much the same way. It just hurts.

    RMW,
    Sadly, I made it too late and not before I hurt a very nice person.

    marylee,
    Does your story bring back memories. This happened pretty much the same to my brother. Our next door neighbor had a maid and often brought her son with her to work. Billy and my brother played everyday--till my parents found out and forbid it. Children do just fine till the adults butt in. I am sorry your neighbors deprived you of a friend.

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  36. I heard this all from my fathers family but not from my mother and that is what counted. My son has a biological son and adopted from Ethiopia and Rwanda.

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  37. How brave of you to share this. I hope it opens some eyes.

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  38. Wow that's a sad but wonderful story. Fortunately I was brought up in a very different home and was taught the opposite. I'm really glad you reposted this story because I haven't read it before.

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  39. TB,
    Your son is to be congratulated. Thank goodness you had two view points to ponder.

    Ginnie,
    Probably won't for most people who come here are all ready open minded which I find so comforting.

    LL Cool Joe,
    I think the English are much more tolerant than we are. So glad you weren't exposed.

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