Monday, January 25, 2010

Diversity Roll Call

This for an assignment from Color Online. At first I didn't think I'd have anything to say, but then....

I started thinking about when I was little. We (my two brothers, my sister) grew up in a unique family unit, especially for the times that we grew up in. I was born in 1960, my sister is one year older, and my brothers 6 years younger. Now in the 1960's and even in the early 70's you didn't hear much about divorced families. Everything you saw on tv was white families with two children, two parents....except for the Mod Squad. We lived with our single mom. Our single Central American mom. She worked cleaning houses while putting her self through the Junior college, and then a state college. We should all have the ambition she did, but we don't-I don't. But for all she did and accomplished, she didn't talk much about her country, or culture, or much of anything to do with being spanish, or central american. In fact, we grew up speaking only english. I tried taking spanish courses in middle school and high school, but it seemed it was mostly geared toward people who were going to go to Mexico as tourists, or talk to university students. Not really conversational. Even while we were taking spanish courses, mom didn't speak to us in spanish. All this background is just to show that we kind of grew up in a vaccuum. No spanish culture, no english culture, no myths, etc. whatever I've learned about fairy-tales, myths, old wives tales, etc comes from reading fiction.

In our city, while we never heard any racist comments, we also didn't see many people of color around, except for all my mom's friends. Who were mostly from Mexico. They would laugh and speak spanish to each other and have us go play outside.

So when I was given an assignment in school to write biographies. there were two people I focused on. I don't know why, because nothing was mentioned about writing about people of color or caucasions. We were just told to do biogrophies.

The first year I picked Marian Anderson. I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I remember wondering why it was such a big deal that she was the first black singer in Carnegie Hall. Now I know, but back then I had come from a family with mixed friends. I never felt white, I never felt spanish. In kindergarden though I painted black paint all over my arms and legs and face. I got in trouble, but I remember crying for our aide, who was gloriously black. Anyway back to the report. I remember reading a little about Marian Anderson's trials as a black singer, but then it was written in the 1960's and so the racism was obviously played down.

The second report I did was about Harriet Tubman. That one affected me a lot more. I was older, the book contained quite a bit more detail. I remember feeling sick thinking about her being hit. I felt sick thinking about people being sold, sold from their parents, sold away from their family and friends. I also remember thinking how brave Harriet Tubman was, going on the freedom underground, and helping many others.

At the time, and for many years after that I thought we were the only country to have slaves. Later, I read about Saxons enslaving people they conquered, Vikings taking thralls, Arabians taking slaves. When I found that out, I pretty much lost respect for humanity as a whole. For human beings, we can be very cruel.

So now, I try to focus on the good things that people do for each other, because if I focus too much on the opposite side, I just might end up hating everyone, and then I wouldn't be any better off than any of the enslavers throughout history.


  1. This was so interesting. Did you ever talk to your mom about why she decided not to share much of her culture with you?

  2. A little bit, here and there. Mainly it was things like she was busy learning English, or she was busy. One time she said there wasn't much to know. Another time it was..."What do you want to know?" I don't know what I want to know- maybe customs, beliefs, myths, weird healing practices....We got nothing.

    When cornered about anything regarding bringing us up, she always fell back on "I was so busy, bringing up four kids by myself". Which she did. She brought us four up by herself, went to college and worked. We still had lots of time together. I do have to say though, that part of the culture that we were learning, though we didn't realized it, was a love of dance. Every Saturday the stereo would come on, and while cleaning (we had to clean a lot) we would dance and listen to music - usually Santana.

  3. I felt the same way when I learned about slavery: a loss of respect for humankind. A loss of hope. And, like you, I made a conscious decision to focus on the positive, because the negative aspects of our history absolutely wore me down.

  4. The most surprising thing for me, is that we aren't te only country who did this. We might be one of the most recent though. But throughout history this has been a recurring theme all over the world. And of course, it's always one country over another. Now I'm getting myself worked up again, but humans can be horrible. It's a good thing that there are also good people out there, or I think I might get very discouraged. That's why I like urban fantasy so much-dealing with monsters and paranormal, I read to escape real life.