My mother taught me to treat everyone with kindness. She was adamant that the guy pumping the gas was as valuable as the guy sitting in the boardroom. Buuuuut, as is human nature, her judgment was still there – however small – and she once referred to Nicolas Cage as the “greasy gas station attendant she hated to love”. And I won’t lie that I did intentionally say “guy” given her very real belief about worthy young women marrying in the temple and raising lots of babies; Work, after all, was for the Man of the House. But, I digress.
My Mother was not perfect, although I like to believe near so. But, she understood she was fallible, and she knew when she was in a space of learning. And in this? I doubt she realized she was teaching at the same time. So, when once as a teen I asked her if it would bother her if I dated person of color? She paused for several moments before responding slowly, “Yes. Yes, it would. But I don’t know why.”
This was the 1980’s and my Boomer Mom was a product of the post war parenting style – borne of ignorance with a shiny Stepford-esque veneer covering up the arrogance of a nation. It was the advent of the front-of-house garage and the angsty teenager – although the latter, I’m sure existed from the get.
(In fact, there’s a funny story I once heard about some brothers named Cain and Abel – and while they were noted by some academics as being 130+ years old, they were basically teens when considering the 730 years Cain ended up walking the rock, spilling his evil seed as he went. Yes, this is another Squirrel rant. And, yes, I looked all that up. Because, “Biblical Scholar” is most certainly not among my list of approved titles, of which I have three: Mama, Writer, and BAMF.)
My point is that my Mom understood that she had an inherent bias – one she was not born with but was taught – if only through a culture based on “white values”, whatever the hell that means. She was not raised in a place of hate or violence toward those who didn’t look like her, but rather she lived in a time when a lot of fucked up shared beliefs percolated beneath the surface of a nation who had never truly come to grips with a shameful history. (Have we yet?)
But Mom always trusted in her ability to change her personal belief system if necessary, using her critical thinking skills and examining things from a different space in her heart. And this she did – up to her admission of the err of some ingrained dogma she didn’t realize she carried with her, and following through to a brand new point-of-view as she took a deep look at that contemptible slice of our country’s story.
It’s been nearly 18 years since my Mother’s death, and while they are certainly forgiven, it’s important not to forget to honor her mistakes. These experiences shaped her, assisting her growth through 59-years of a well-lived life, and rippling outward to affect those around her. I’m sure I’ve made more miscalculations, had more lapses in judgment, and displayed far more deviant behavior than she ever did, and I fully get that all that stupidity amounts to a fuckton of growth. And that? Makes it all worth it, I suppose.