My parents left my brother and I in the care of my Native American uncle and his African American wife when I was two years old. I have no memory of this time, but according to my mother, I didn’t want to come home when they came to pick me up. My uncle was ostracized from the family for marrying across the racial lines and I have only seen him one other time since. My mother believes that when I saw the baby doll in the store, it reminded me of the other part of my family tree. Oppression of black people by Native Americans did not make sense to me, but others have helped me to understand that we pass on our own pain even when it doesn’t make sense.
I was asked once what my first memory of race was. My answer is hard. My first memory of race is when I arrived to my grandparent’s house on the other side of the family with that baby doll. I remember not fully understanding what was going on, but feeling protective of that doll, for it seemed like my grandfather was mad at her or me? He asked what I was doing with a black baby doll and I drew her closer. Before I knew it, the tension was gone, but I remember that moment more than I even remember the doll, for my grandfather had a way of making me feel like I was the reason the stars hung in the sky and that day I felt like he was disappointed in me.
“Did you swallow a dollar and break out in pennies?” he would say when I got freckles in the summer. “You are the only angel I know who has the devil living in her eyes…” was something I heard frequently and so often I would arrive to their home with old underwear for I was quite independent and wanted to pack for myself and he would say, “Well aren’t you holy?” That was my grandfather. I loved him so much. Yet, I am no different than most, I learned about race and how to distinguish myself from others by people I love.
Over the years I have learned that many people are fine with those who are another race as long as they stay in what is believed to be their place. I think that was the issue years ago. I don’t worry much about my grandfather today; today I worry more about me. The place thing is still an issue. We allow ourselves to be divided by place. We allow ourselves to believe there are people who hold characteristics that make them better than others and others who because of color, class, or whatever we decide are not good enough, beautiful enough, whatever enough. If we only could learn that the DNA of who we are as people translates to nothing more than children of God. Love for ourselves, God, and others requires an understanding of place. Our place is struggling to live together within our family, the entire human race.
with you on the journey,
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