Last Friday, I was subbing at the High School. They had an Martin Luther King Jr. assembly led by three teenagers which moved me to tears. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing something since Friday but what, I’m not sure. So bear with me as I process emotions for the whole world to read.
Recently I did one of those Ancestory.com DNA tests to help me learn the real biological history that I’m made of. I’m sure like a lot of families in the United States, mine was made up of half truths and stories that are told so many times, no one knows what was real and what was fabricated. I read once something to the tune of 70% of United States Citizens believe they are part American Indian. I was told the same stories. Turns out, none of it was true. I’m largely primarily British, more specifically Scottish (42%) and German (33%). This I suppose accounts for the red hair in my family. Go figure. I’m also 9% from the Iberian Peninsula: Spanish or Portuguese and 9% from Europe south: Italian or Greek. I remember watching a commercial a while ago about people in Europe who did DNA testing and found out they aren’t what they thought. In fact a lot of the participants had grudges against another ethnicity for whatever reason and then it came to pass that they themselves were that ethnicity. I remember thinking, everyone should do a DNA test. Learn where your roots really started and maybe it would help with some of the animosity in the world. I don’t know if it really would but it is a nice idea.
My niece and nephew are half African American. They are the center of my world three days a week when they live at my house. All my crazy Luke and Leia stories are from them. Here’s the the thing. As I was sitting in that high school auditorium, listening to a girl speak about what it was like to be torn in two, “not white enough to be white, not black enough to be black” I thought of my own niece. I thought of the trials and tribulations my nephew would face. I think about things they will have to suffer through because of the color of their skin that I never had to face. It tears me apart.
In this world I tolerate a lot. But if there’s one thing I have absolutely zero tolerance for, it’s people not being treated fairly. I don’t have a tolerance of any kind for racists. For people who are unkind because of difference none of us got to choose. I didn’t choose to be German. But I could tell you a story of when my great-great grandparents fled from prosecution. At 12 & 13 years old they were married and sent on a boat heading for America and a chance at a better life. Left their family, their friends, their lives for something completely unknown. I think about how my ancestors on my dad’s side, the Scottish ones, eventually immigrated here. That’s the thing about being American, most of us are immigrants. Our families moved here at some point or another and we created a life. If you immigrated here ten generations ago, it doesn’t make you any better then someone who immigrated here this generation. In fact, it makes them more brave to seek out a new life.
I don’t know what my point is in writing all this. Except that it’s been at the forefront of my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about the unkind things that are said, both politically and locally. About overhearing someone make fun of a person because of the color of their skin. People cheering on the hate. It’s nauseating. It’s about dreading the day I’ll have to hold my niece and nephew in my arms rocking away their tears because someone has lashed out at them for being black. And knowing in the very fiber of my bones none of this should ever even exist. I’m not going to pretend that I had some racially charged upbringing. I didn’t. I don’t know what it’s like to be made fun of for being white. It never happened. I can speak for miles about what it’s like being a woman in a good ol’ boys club, what it’s like growing up poor, about having student loans which are suffocating, about having a dream for a future in which everyone, man, woman, black, white, brown, disabled, and everything in between are treated fairly. A future where my niece and nephew are treated equally and have the same opportunities as everyone else. What I can say is it’s up to all of us to speak up. To say no to the hate. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.”