Yesterday I was visiting with two of my friends from India that are currently living in Oregon. They are both very educated and come from the highest level of castes in India. I am so intrigued by their culture, and really enjoy my conversations with these friends.
Both of my friends families in India are extremely wealthy. Both of their families have many servants in their home that take care of all their household duties. They even have a watchman that protects their home from potential robbers. Both of their families’ goals is to obtain as much gold as possible, and the focus of daily life is to get that gold.
Often during our conversations I would end up laughing because I just couldn’t relate. The first time our friend visited our home for dinner he was shocked that I was cooking and cleaning the dishes. He asked, ” Where are the servants?” I said, “What servants ?” He said, ” The servants to do the cleanup” I replied, ” I am the servant.” We had such a good laugh !!
Last night we were talking about the level of caste in India and the prejudice against the lower caste by the higher caste. Hearing of that prejudice against the lower caste is very disturbing to me. I woke up this morning thinking about prejudice and my experience growing up as a child in a predominately all white community.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old , my stepfather worked at a juvenile correction facility in St. Charles Illinois. One summer my brothers and I were playing outside and my mother was screaming out our front door telling us to get inside the house. My brothers and I ran to the house and my mother said ” You need to get inside, there are two black boys that escaped from the correction facility”. She closed the door and locked it and ran through the house closing and locking all the windows and doors.
This correction facility was about 40 miles or so from where we lived. My brothers and I were angry that we had to stay inside. I asked my mom why we could not continue to play outside. She said ” Do you want these black (she used a different word I will not repeat) boys to come and rape you?” I remember thinking mom is crazy. Did she really think that these boys that escaped from the correctional facility were going to run 40 miles, into a predominately all white community to our dead end street and pick us to rape. What the heck !! I stomped up the stairs into my room thinking mom is off her rocker.
My room had a wall that was covered in pictures that I tore out of one of my favorite magazines called Teen Beat. I loved the Jackson 5, especially Jermaine and Randy. So any and every photo I had of them was on my wall. Most of my friends adored Donny Osmond and Leif Garrett , not me , I was in love with the Jackson 5 and my mother hated them. My mom would eventually in one of her rages tear all the pictures off my wall. While screaming derogatory comments to me.
I could never understand why my parents hated people of color so much. My parents were huge sports fans , baseball , basketball and football was usually the topic of every conversation in our home. We were very fortunate to attend professional sporting events , and even traveled out of state to watch their favorite baseball team play an entire series. My favorite baseball team was the White Sox , my parents and brothers’ favorite was the Chicago Cubs. My mom loved Ernie Banks and Jose Cardenal , Ernie Banks was black and Jose Cardenal was from Cuba. I could never understand why all the sports players they adored were were men of color except Ron Santo and Dick Butkus. Yet anytime we were near a person of color my mom thought they would rob us or rape me.
My parents were simple minded ignorant people. During my middle school years I grew very fond of a boy that was Native American Indian. We passed notes in school and he would call me everyday after school and we would talk for hours. Sometimes we would meet at a playground with other friends and play baseball and basketball together.
In 8th grade we had a dance at the school and this boy asked me to the dance. I was very excited , I asked my mother if I could go to the dance with him. My mother flew into a rage and said absolutely not. She yelled at me and said. ” Do you want to marry some stupid Indian that lives by the railroad tracks and that’s poor?” I cried and said I just wanted to go to the dance with him.” Under no circumstance was she going to allow me to attend the dance with him. I felt so bad telling him I could not go. It took me about a week to tell him and then I made up a lie because I did not want to hurt his feelings. I really cared about him and a few years ago I was able to tell him the truth about what had happened. He told me I was his first love and he always wondered what had happened to me after I moved away.
It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I was able to experience diversity. The children I birthed are of mixed race and were the most beautiful brown babies. One of the many positives of living on the out skirts of Portland is our diverse community. However racism still exists. My husband has been told by several people ” that he is not like most blacks”. That angers me and is such a racist statement.
Last year someone I was close to told me that her ” musician friend ” had made a statement after she separated from her husband. The statement he made was “just don’t date a black guy”. After she told me her ” musician friend ” said this I never felt the same way about him. I was really angry and wanted to approach him, but she made me promise that I never would.
Today I reflect on how thankful I am to have left the house of horror. I am very thankful to have friends of many cultures.