Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The examples we set: Teaching Bigotry and Segregation

There are a great many things I hear people say that I pray to God my children never hear, or if they do that they have enough rebellion in them to think for themselves instead of believing everything that is said to them.

My mother didn't push her beliefs on me, I didn't even know what her beliefs were until I violated them and even then her reaction was more, "I can't believe you did that!" than condemnation. Turns out, she's pretty conservative. I was a shocking child who always kept her on her toes, I'm sure if she was the praying sort she would have spent most of her days praying for my redemption over my complete disregard of bigotry. I think as the years went on and I wasn't struck by lightning, I kind of rubbed off on her a little. Or, at least, she came to expect the unexpected and kept her opinions to herself, laughing off my absurdity as just being an integral part of who I am. My father was more liberal. He was the free spirit, the hippie child who couldn't be told what to believe and loved all people equally. In the words of his sister, "he didn’t have an enemy that I know. he didn't care if you were black, white, or purple, if you were a good person you were ok with him... that's not to say he never fought, if he was pushed into a corner & there was no other choice...then look out." I guess I'm more my father's daughter than I thought. I have to thank both of them for that, my father for being my example and my mother for stepping back and allowing me to decide for myself.

It wasn't until Walter was in Kindergarten that I started to find out how lucky I was in having that choice. My mother had a new husband and Walter spent a lot of time there while I worked. Sitting at the kitchen table one morning before school, Walter nonchalantly made a violently racist remark. I couldn't believe it! Of course, right away I wanted to know where he heard such a disgusting thing, and, of course, it was from my step-dad. After explaining to Walter that the neo-Nazi ridiculousness he's being fed is against all people who are not white, and he, himself, is not white and explaining that people are people, perfect as they were made, I went to have a talk with my step-dad about his "educating" my 5 year old. I thought that was the end of it, but it's not. well, it was with my step-dad but there are hordes of people willing to step in and make sure Walter knows that not everyone is equal. Two examples were set in front of him, he will have to decide which one to follow.

The other day, we went out to eat and Walter learned a hard lesson. The waiter introduced himself and went off to do what waiters do. The person we were eating with starts flicking their fingers while quietly saying, "gay-dar. gay-dar." a whispered argument started over bigoted attitudes, separation of church and state, WWJD, free will, who's going to Hell, and who exactly has the right to judge people for their sins. The other person would make a joke and Walter would laugh. As the evening went on and the waiter continued to be friendly, no matter how many times my Goofy One called his name, being patient no matter the request, he showed my special kids total respect and treated every single one of them as nothing less than normal, nothing other than equal. As Walter watched him, knowing what was said behind his back... the jokes weren't so funny. He looked down at his plate, ashamed. "Now I feel bad. He seems really nice." "He is, isn't he?" What more can I say? He saw bigotry, he saw acceptance. Two examples were set in front of him, he will have to decide which one to follow.

There are pages on Facebook that I refuse to follow. There are beliefs that I don't want touching my kids. There is a world of strawmen and feefees (I'm not even sure what that means, I assume it's empty headed and overly emotional) and the absolute conviction that parents are incompetent, if not flat out evil and determined to destroy our children. They seem to crave and actively encourage segregation, they promote a polarized us-versus-them mentality and a some even go as far as dictating how members should think, act, and feel being quick to call them out for a differing opinion. It's a world where it's common knowledge that we parents hate our children and have absolutely nothing of value to add to the discussion. We need to shut up and listen. Not speak unless spoken to... and even then only by direct invitation. and don't you dare ask questions, you should have googled it. We "normal" people could never understand them. We can't know our children as well as they do. We are wrong in everything we think we know, and even the kids who can speak for themselves are wrong when they tell us something that conflicts with their beliefs, "your child may think she likes it, but she might not really. kids on the spectrum tend to have trouble telling how they really feel." For the most part, I read and move on, never leaving any evidence that I was ever there. I listen but that's not a world I want to spend much time in, much less live in. That's not a world I want my son imprisoned in. As much as Alex is not less for being autistic, his family is not less for not being autistic. Equality is not about being better than the people you oppose. The time for "separate but equal" ended decades ago. This is not something I will introduce my children to. This is not something I choose to encourage.

When you bring these fights to me, you are wasting your time. I live in a world where everyone is equal. I live in a world where everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve whether they are black, white, gay, straight, autistic, or neurotypical. I live in a world where you are not wrong just so I can be right. That is the example that was set for me and this is the example I am setting for my children...

Believe what you want to believe. Just because someone says that you are wrong, doesn't mean they are right. Don't let others intimidate you into thinking you are less than who you want to be. Stand up for what you believe but don't expect everyone to agree with you. You will face opposition but there is no need to push back, just stand firm. Know your own truth. Be someone you can be proud of.  Be the change you want to see in the world. There is nothing wrong with sitting on the outskirts of humanity, not belonging to this group or that group, sometimes the cost of fitting in is more than what it's worth.

I want you to know these things, to believe them with everything you are but if there is just one thing you learn from me, let it be this... "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [and] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” If that is the example I set for you, I will consider my job well done.

Two examples are set in front of you, you will have to decide which one to follow.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, Thank you Mac. Great post and even greater reality check.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes! We have the same problem with my mother-in-law. I swear my head may explode one day. It's really going to leave a mess on the carpet.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope your world gets populated to over capacity!! PEACE

    ReplyDelete
  4. As always Mama beautifully written!!!! blessings to you! encouraging and uplifting, this is the example I want to be and the lessons I want to teach as well :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very important lessons to be taught indeed!

    ReplyDelete