There has been a lot of talk about white privileged and America’s torrid racist roots. I know a little something about being oblivious to one’s own racism and how hard it is to deal with. This lily white woman fell in love with a black person. My white privilege tried to be the ultimate decision maker of my life and rather than embracing the love, I ran in the opposite direction.
Before I tell that story, here are a few bits of context.
My Mother was born and raised in the racist South. As a child, I would often hear her say things that could have been the seeds for my own racism to flourish. Luckily for me however, my southern mother, married a young California man she met during the war on the beaches of Florida. She told me she picked him as a husband because he was cocky, and goal orientated, She knew he would make something of himself and was determined to be an instrumental partner in their mutual success. Their new life together would be built in California. History tells us racism was alive and well in the early days of California, but by the time I was born in 1953 diversity and inclusion had begun its forward march.
My Father was born in Nebraska and his parents immigrated to California when his Father got a job as a bacteriologist. My father’s high school in Redwood City had some diversity. One of his best friends was Ham, a Japanese man who I remember meeting as a child. I wish my Father were still alive as I write this memoir today. I’d love to talk openly about his feelings about having a best friend like Ham, whose family was rounded up and imprisoned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As both a patriot, and a friend of a Japanese man, I imagine it caused conflicting feelings.
Be a Good Christian
My parents joined the church of his family, The Methodist Church in Redwood City. We were regular church goers, and I attended Sunday school and vacation bible school. I honestly can’t tell you if that had anything to do with “my heart for justice” or when exactly I started cringing at my Mother’s racist rants. When I was 13 my father took a job with American Airlines in New York City. We moved to an affluent town and we joined a more liberal church, but by the time I was in high school, and the civil rights movement
Be a Hard Worker
My parents were typical of the post WWII generation who returned as victors. They were full of confidence and welcomed as heros. They were both hard workers, frugal, and full of big dreams. As a veteran my father received governmental aid, The GI bill, which helped him complete his college education. My sister arrived sooner than expected which ended my mother’s short lived career as a telephone operator. GI’s qualified for low interest loans and purchased their first house in the town where his parents lived, Redwood City, which is the house they brought me home to from the hospital. By the time I was two my Father was fully employed as a mechanic with a local airline and drew up plans to build their first new home on the edge of town in a new housing development.