Monday, February 11, 2013

Innocence Lost....(My Life - Part I)


This post will contain many racial epithets. 
If you are easily offended, please do not continue.

 It's been a long time since my last post. I haven't been visiting other blogs too much either. Holidays were great. I was in a bad frame of mind for a little bit there. Not gun to the head, start fires, bed ridden for weeks bad. But it seemed like a lot of shit hit me all with in a week or two. One thing that set it off was an incident that happened to my Daughter at school, which led me to think of my own upbringing.

 The first week of December was boring. I always get bored when I'm not working. Got laid off just after Thanksgiving. Since my home is pretty immaculate, my down time is usually spent doing basic household chores, and playing on the computer. But when my Daughter spends the week here, it's a lot less boring. So I pick her up and as we are driving home we are talking about her day. As I'm driving we are listening to some music. Then while we are stopped at a light, she says "Hey Dad". "Yeah Hun", I reply. "What's a Nigger?".  My jaw dropped. "We'll be home in three minutes Hun, we'll talk about it then."
 As we walk in the door she immediately sits down at the table to start her homework. I actually go to the fridge and grab a beer. "What the FUCK?" is what I'm thinking. So I take my beer and sit down next to her. With T.V. off and no distractions I ask her, "Soooooo, where did you here that word kiddo?" "Emma called me a nigger lover." she said. "What exactly happened?" I asked. "When I came in from recess I sat down, and Emma leaned over and called me a nigger lover" she replied. "Well what happened at recess Hun?". "Nothing, I was playing hopscotch with Sabrina" she told me. I asked her, "Is Sabrina the little black girl in your class?". "No Dad, She's in Mrs. McQuinn's class, not mine." "OH,  sorry", I replied sarcastically. "Go ahead and finish your homework Hun, we'll talk more later." So I start cooking dinner. While I'm cooking, I start doing a lot of reflecting on my own past life.

 When I was about nine years old, I heard my Father say nigger for the first time. Then my Mother is frantically telling him to shut up, "Jonathon is in the next room". I knew right away that I heard a bad word, but had no idea what it was. That's one of the most beautiful things about children. They are so naive to the ugliness.
 Now my Father is what I call a "Taught Racist". He was taught from an early age that black people are beneath him. I believe this is the type of racist that is most likely to join a hate group. But, since he was raised in Kentucky by an Irish immigrant Father, he had some rather colorful nicknames for black people. By the time I was six, I thought crickets lived on the moon, cute bunnies lived in the jungle, and we had apes living in the backyard. But when I heard the word nigger, I was at that perfect age where I was naive and inquisitive. So I asked my Mom, "What's a nigger?". "Honey, that's a very bad word that you don't ever repeat."
Moving to Chicago in the 60's was probably a bad thing for my parents. I can see how my Father's seeds of hate only grew during the riots. I would think that's how it went down, and my Mother must have told him about our conversation. Because shortly thereafter, the word nigger was used more and more commonly in my home. "Oprah is a good looking woman for a nigger" is one thing I remember hearing. "If Walter wasn't a nigger, he wouldn't be half the runner he is now" is another thing I remember hearing about Chicago's very own and beloved Walter Payton. I thought nothing of this language, as I started hearing it all the time. By the time I reached Jr. High, we lived in a nice Chicago suburb that was pretty much all white. But at that age you start picking up little stories on TV and in news papers. And just as it is now it was the same back then. The majority of crime, especially violent crime in Chicago was committed by black people. So seeds start being planted. But then when I got into High School, big changes took place. I became defiant. As with most white kids in my situation, you start developing a love for the black kids. It would be nice to say that this is because you start developing empathy in your life. But that's bullshit, at fourteen years old, you're the most selfish you have ever been. You express love for the black community not out of empathy, but out of defiance. Pretty much a big fuck you to the old man. At this time I remember a young black doctor coming into our home to perform a physical on my Father for his work. I'm sitting on the couch waiting to hear my Father tell this young guy to get out of his house because no niggers are allowed. But just the opposite. All smiles and handshakes from the old man. Even friendly banter during the physical. As the doctor finished my Mother and Father walked him to the door. All smiles and waves as he walked out. I remember thinking, maybe my Father had changed his ways. He walks into the kitchen, grabs a Budweiser, and walking to his special chair he gives me a wink and says "I better take a shower soon and wash this nigger off of me". I remember shaking my head and thinking, "Wow, the old man is a Pussy Bigot". That was my own special name for people that were to afraid to express how they truly feel.

 As I've grown older, I've often thought about racism and how it equates to upbringing. My Uncle, Aunt and Cousins still live in Kentucky. I don't think any of them are prejudice in any way, although I've never asked. That is from my Mom's side (her Brother). They are also all college educated. So does education have anything to do with it? Maybe. But my Mother was not racist at all, and she didn't even finish High School. Maybe it was my Maternal Grandfather (Pampau). Maybe there was a lot more love in my Mother's home than my Father's. Or is it experiences?
 My own prejudices or at least the ones I think I have are solely based on life experience, or is it? I'll be the first to admit, I have become desensitized. Dago, Wop, Krout, Mick, I've said them all. But what is it that makes Nigger so dirty. It's got to be the worst, even worse than kike. So dirty, that when someone on some news channel paraphrases, they don't say nigger. They say "The N word". Which by the way, I've always hated that. I'll let one of my favorite comedians explain why.

 To be honest with you, I've done the same thing. I once called some old white lady a dumb nigger. As I look back on language I've used, I realize none of it's right. But Nigger has got to be the most offensive. Seriously, calling me a Mick, or Hillbilly doesn't even compare. And I don't even know why I say it. Even with the life experiences I've had with people from the black community, I've never looked at another black man or woman and thought, "What a nigger". But yet I feel no guilt saying the word. I think I have become desensitized. By a combination of media, experiences, and of course my Father. (Thanks Dad)
 But since the incident with my Daughter, I find it necessary to eliminate some language from my vocabulary. I am the first to admit, that I am a foul mouthed prick. Unabashed for sure. What do you expect, I was raised by a trucker. But I have always prided myself on "Watching" my language around my Daughter. I'm proud to say that the worse thing my Daughter has ever heard was Hell. I think she might have heard me call someone an asshole once, but I don't want to ask. But still, I have never stopped to think of what that word really means to the black community, and I think it's time. I can see how it is offensive. Not to you Liberal professor types, who may very well have family that owned black people long long ago. But to a black man whose Great Great Grandfather may very well have been owned.

 Continuing with our conversation during dessert. "So Hun, you asked what a nigger is". "Yeah", she replied. "Well, a nigger is a very bad word that some people use for black people". "What does it mean?" she asks. "It has no meaning Honey, it's called a slur. A slur is a bad, hurtful way to refer to someone's nationality or race." I replied. "Oh, so why did Emma say it?" she asked. "Well, Maybe Emma's parents raise her differently than I raise you. Did Emma say this to Sabrina?". "No", she replied. "Good, what Emma said was not nice, and I don't want you talking to her." I said. " I don't talk to her anyway Dad, she's kind of mean." She replied. "Good, so what do you want to do this weekend?" I asked. "Can I have a play date with Sabrina?" she replied. "Of course you can honey" I said, with a smile on my face.



  1. I was being raped at a gas pump the other day, both financially and decibally. The cost of gas has come up a quarter in a few days, and a young punk had his stereo blaring while he was being raped at another pump. For some reason, the singer (or whatever) felt the need to repeatedly say "motherfuck nigga". I don't have much sympathy for how offensive black people find that word. If it hurts their feelings, they should quit using it.

    1. I agree TJ but to tell you the truth, I'm not to concerned with their feelings. I'm just trying to be the best Father I can be. I had a friend in eighth grade. Rommell was a black kid and we became pretty good friends. But I was always afraid to invite him to my house when the old man was around. I don't ever want my Daughter to feel that way. As far as the "Gangsta Rap", or whatever the hell that kid was listening to. You're right, those rappers and gangbangers should stop calling each other Nigga. I could give a shit about them. I feel bad for the older black people. The elders are the ones who realize how awful their ancestors were treated, and how far they have come. I'm betting their the ones who are most annoyed by these black teenagers standing on the corner calling each other nigga, while their pants are half way down there ass. But that's just a guess.

  2. I had never ever seen a black person until we moved to Decatur, Illinois and I think the first time I ever heard the word used when Dad spoke of the fish store in "Nigger Town". Well, this was about the same time that intergration was happening.
    And, you know while I had no idea about this racial crap. Then, I was over on the backside at James C Ellis Park race track - maybe two miles or so from Mom's place across the state line - not the Ohio River - in Kentucky - I seen a canteen over there with segregated counters. Henderson, Ky had white and black water fountains.

    Is there still racism in America? Look at the Repubicans and Obama...


    1. Maybe the people of my generation can help create a better world Sarge. Time will tell.

  3. The "N' word was NEVER allowed to be uttered in our home. I also, had a very "volatile" Irish father and a pretty violent upbringing. However, my father was not racist. My introduction to racism was in Washington D.C.. We were picking my Nana up at Union Station. There were water fountains there. One said "colored" the other didn't have a label, that I can recall. I ran for the colored water fountain, thinking, a mad, rainbow of colors would come flowing out. I was pretty disappointed about the transparent water coming out of that fountain and my parents had to explain to me about the "colored" water fountain. I had best friends in school who were African-American, it was never an issue, it wasn't even a thought. You did a good job with your daughter. You are breaking a cycle, that needs to be broken. Welcome back Jon, I look forward to reading more.

  4. Pat, you are a precious woman that I enjoy conversing with. As much shit as you received from your Father, good for him, not passing that "thing" on. I thing my Papa (Paternal Grandfather) really got his "I hate Blacks" feelings when he landed in New York. From what I understand, this was the time when the Irish were heavily looked down upon. It may not be an excuse today, but I can understand that way of thinking in the early 1900's. Thank you for the support, and I did not forget about the entitlement series which I need to complete.

  5. I remember having my first exposure to white's only / colored signs over water fountains, on a trip to the gulf for a winter vacation with my parents. We had been detoured off the interstate through a small, old deep southern town where we stopped for gas for the car.
    I was all of maybe three or four, barely able to get a drink by myself out of an adult height fountain. The only one that worked of the two was the colored fountain, so I drank out of that.

    My parents were concerned about offending the white southern sensibilities about race, so they told me not to do that. I expressed, not terribly softly, that it was dumb to have two old, stained bad fountains, and that they should just get one good one for everybody that worked. My parents argued, I argued back. 'Dumb' was my word for adults behaving illogically. The white gas station guy was clearly getting unhappy with what I was saying, but didn't address me directly. At some point, rather than continuing the discussion right there, my father paid him, picked me up and threw me bodily into the back of the car (like midget tossing), and we left in some haste. As we drove away my father tried to explain about it having been illegal in the south to drink out of the wrong fountain, sit in the wrong place, etc.
    But what it really came down to was that my parents were worried about what happened when the incredibly warm southern hospitality changed to antagonism for 'yankees' telling them how to do things. It was a shock to realize that my parents were genuinely afraid of being northerners in some parts of the south, that we were not quite so much all one country as I had come to expect while taking road trips with my parents out west or east. They were afraid of actual physical harm over the issue of race.

    1. From my understanding, those in the deep south looked upon Northerners with the same disdain as those of color.

  6. My parents were very careful to avoid the usual vulgar swearing words, even on the occasion of a stubbed toe or thumb hit with a hammer. But I was aware that they were themselves racist, just less obvious than some small town southerners, and anti-semitic as well.

    Joke was on them; tracing the family genealogy on my father's side, it turned out his antecedents were Jews, from Switzerland, back in the 1400s, who emigrated to Germany at some point, becoming first forced conversion Catholics, then more-or-less voluntarily Lutheran.

    We had no black students in our school, but we did have a large minority of Jewish students. There were some parental protests over holiday programs being exclusively Christian mixed with secular traditions. Resentments, particularly among parents within the PTA got pretty hot over it.

    The Jewish parents were telling their kids not to play with the non-Jewish kids, and the other side doing the same. It affected who one cold invite to birthday parties, sleep overs, etc.

    So I marched over to the slides and swings, stood up on the bottom of the slide so I was taller than everybody, and held an impromptu meeting. I said adults were being dumb again, and that we might have to do what they said when they were around, but that out here and in class we should play with whoever we wanted to and like whoever we liked, and not do things the adult's way, and that I wasn't going to like or dislike anyone because of their religion. Because we were all pretty much the religion our parents decided to be, whether we liked it or not. Then I called for a vote. It was unanimous.

    When we went back inside, my 2nd grade teacher took me aside and asked me what I was dong out there. So, I crossed my arms in my stubborn-defiant pose, and told her. She just stood there for a moment, looking at me, and then swooped down and hugged me.
    She startled me; I thought for a moment she was grabbing me to haul me off to the principal's office for my defiance. She just hugged me really hard, and said just one word, "Good". Then she told me to go to my desk, and then she left the room for a little while, and talked with some other teachers out in the hall.

    I think she was crying, or laughing, or maybe both.

    I kept in touch with my teachers, as I moved on to other grades and other schools, even when I moved on to college and after college.

    Adult to adult, one of my favorite teachers once blurted out - "you were a royal pain in the ass, but in a fun way (?), and you were always the most fun when you were pissed off. We always thought of you as 'our' pain in the ass." I'm still not sure what they meant by 'our' pain in the ass, exactly, but I tended to expand on my impromptu organizational / leadership talents as I got older; maybe they enjoyed that.

    But the memory did prompt a suggestion. I think you should tell your daughter's teacher, and the other teacher. You may be able to help them help their students, or at least help them be more aware of the dynamics among them going on so they can manage them more effectively.

  7. I was very independent as a child, and I had a precociously high IQ. Therefore, when I wanted to know something, typically my parents would try to give me, at least some of the time, what they thought was age-appropriate answers. I wanted adult appropriate answers, so as far back as I can remember, I tended to seek out other sources of information and concepts. When I was 3, I told my mother there was no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy, and to please stop patronizing me, stop insulting my intelligence, and stop lying to me.

    I was THAT kind of pain in the ass child.

    Kids don't ONLY learn from what they see their parents do, they learn from their teachers, they learn from their peers. They become aware of their parent's prejudices, but they also learn pretty quickly that those prejudices are not so widely accepted too, which gives them a choice in what they believe.

    I feel sorry for Emma, because when people say things like 'nigger lover', they are usually people who feel badly about themselves, some sense of failure or inferiority or even jealousy. So they use putting others down, or more precisely trying to put themselves above others, to compensate. Hate doesn't grow well without that existing as a pre-requisite in some form.

    1. You know DG, I don't feel bad for Emma. I don't think she called Keira a nigger lover out of hate. Just so you know, these girls are eight years old. I don't think kids that age know what hate is, but the seeds are planted. I think Emma just had hurt feelings, because Keira wasn't playing with her. So jealousy may be the case. I just don't think she had any idea how hateful that was to say.
      I have already talked to Keira's teacher and Principal. I also ran into Emma's Dad at the Father/Daughter dance a few weeks ago and discussed it with him. All three parties I spoke to had the same shocked look upon their face. But for some reason, I just don't think they were all to shocked, or cared too much.

  8. Let us hope that it is a good thing that the parents, teacher, etc. didn't over-react either, I suppose.

    The constructive thing might be a three-part play date that includes both Emma and Sabrina.

    Sadly, because we can pick our friends, and our noses, but not our families, it is quite possible that someone else in Emma's life other than her parents was the source for Emma learning the expression, albeit without really knowing fully what it meant.

    Meeting people, learning that we all have more in common than differences, is the best way to fight hatred and bigotry.

    1. Anything is possible DG, but there is a reason that most people send their child(ren) to Catholic School, and it isn't the education. I will go into that in my next post.