11.28.2014

On being thankful...

I wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Last night I was surrounded by family and family friends and I felt very blessed. Of course, then the topic of Ferguson was brought up. Or rather, the topic of "those animals in Ferguson" and "that thug who deserved to be shot" came up. And I then got mad.

I know everyone has their own feelings about what happened and these are strong feelings. I do as well. I'm not even going to get into the intricacies of the racial tensions in Missouri, the alleged corruption in the Ferguson police department, or the seemingly bizarre way that the district attorney's office chose to present the case to the grand jury. I'm not. I could say a lot on all of that, but that's not the issue. You are allowed to disagree or agree with the grand jury's decision but you're not allowed to be a racist asshole.

I could have easily gone off on this person but I bit my tongue out of respect for everyone else there. That's not to say I backed down. I most certainly did not. I gave facts and statistics. I talked about the way the legal system works (and is supposed to work). I reminded everyone that the mainstream media rarely puts forward the full, true story. I refrained from yelling about what a racist asshole he was being and kept it strictly to facts, not opinions. I even acknowledged the possibility that some of what he was saying was correct (and only reminded him that we can't really know and shouldn't go based entirely on what the TV says). But when I finally got pissed off, like really pissed off, was when the discussion turned to the problems with black people in general.

#TBT of me and my daughter
It is very easy for a white, heterosexual man who lives in a relatively well off part of Long Island to not understand what it is like to be poor or to be a person of color, let alone both. However, it's upsetting when people don't at least recognize their own privilege. I got particularly upset when the issue of "parents and children having different last names" came up because that's the case with my daughter and me. We don't share a last name and I'm not married to her father. (I don't share a last name with my own mother either for the record; she and my father divorced when I was two and she went back to her maiden name.) I never married my daughter's father and in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't because it saved me from having to go through a stressful and costly divorce. Having unmarried parents is not a black thing. It happens all over the country (and all over the world) across various races, religions and socio-economic brackets. It's also not a bad thing. And I refuse to allow someone to say that to me in front of my daughter in my own home. It's pretty fucked up that knowing my situation, someone would still say that to me, but it's a fucked up thing to say either way.

I am still thankful for all that I have. I am thankful that I have the right to have a child "out of wedlock" and not be looked down on by most people. And I am thankful that I have the right to not give a shit if you do look down on me. And I am even thankful for the freedom of speech, so that assholes like him can say fucked up things like that to me and I can say how fucking wrong they are right here. I am thankful that my half-Latina daughter was born with light skin and light hair, so she will always benefit from a certain level of privilege that her cousins might not. And I am dedicated to making sure that she realizes that every day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. For the rest of the holidays this year and next, I hope you remember to be respectful to those who have opened their homes to you for the holidays. And everyday I hope you will remember that the world out there is more complicated than the little world you live in... so have an open mind and don't just spout nonsense you heard on TV unless you know what you're talking about. And most importantly, please be grateful for all that you have - both the privileges that you were lucky enough to have been born with and the rewards that you earned.

Today I am going to hug my daughter tight and thank god that I have her (and that she is alive and well and safe). I suggest you all do the same.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am curious why the person you were talking with said un-married parents were a bad thing. Did he provide an explanation?

Anonymous said...

You wrote that certain people don't recognize their own privilege. I was thinking about that point. Who gets to decide what is the criteria
for privilege? I looked up one definition of privilege "a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people". I am sure some would say money and things associated with wealth are a measure but what if money is not your priority? I know a person that hurt their back and went on workers disability. She is doing
better now and can go back to their previous good paying job. She has told me that she is physically fine, but she chooses to stay on disability because her time is more important than the increase in money from working. When I was younger I lived in
poverty, my mother was on food stamps, I had holes in my clothes, I walked past drug dealers to get to school, but I was never happier. There are of course many other measures of privilege, but the things that are
most important to me and to my significant other have nothing to do with things that others may consider privilege.