Stand Tall and Hold Hands

7 04 2013

I love Sunday mornings. I lazily watch TV with a cup or two of dark, rich coffee from my cozy bed. A story on Jackie Robinson and the upcoming movie about him made me reflect on my own life. The reality of hatred and racism seems so distant from the comfort and safety of my comfortable Sunday morning. It is unfortunately still an ugly reality. And it has touched me and shaped me into the person I am today.

I was in second grade the first time two brave little African-American girls showed up in my all white classroom. One of my white classmates told her mother, “Momma, we had two little maids in class today.” I can only imagine what those two little girls told their parents when they went home that day.

While I have no memory of any overt racism, I know that I’m looking back through the lens of white privilege. They were probably teased or bullied or taunted because of their skin color. Or they were simply left out; they are not in any of my pictures of birthday parties or Girl Scout meetings. I have no memories of running and giggling with them at recess.

Fast forward a few decades and I marry a man who was Chinese. He actually still is Chinese, but he is no longer my husband. He left his home in Malaysia to create a new life for himself in America. He was (and still is) a talented man and he received some local recognition for the paper sculpture illustrations that he created. The day after a newspaper article appeared about him, I started receiving phone calls at work and at home. The voice angrily said, “Why did you marry that Chink?! Move out of our white neighborhood, “ and then the voice would slam the phone down.

It was frightening, scary and it made me very angry. It was the symbolic brick in the back of the head. It made us consider moving away from our family and friends. It made us question whether we should ever have children. We never thought to contact the police; this was a time before caller ID. We felt very alone and on our own and vulnerable. The calls happened randomly and after six months they stopped as abruptly as they began.

While the calls did end, that brick in the back of the head feeling never entirely went away. Those hate-filled calls taught me a real life lesson in compassion for those who are victimised by hatred.  I do know that I am lucky and for countless others, their victimization does not go away after six months.  I know that hatred and prejudice can fester and literally kill, be it because of race or religion or gender orientation.

I can’t go back to the second grade and hold the hands of those scared little girls and ask them to run and skip and jump rope with me. Today I know that my gay and lesbian friends must be scared that they may never be able to marry the ones they love.

I want to hug them and hold their hands and tell them that the world is changing. I was born into a world where people with different colored skin could not marry. The world slowly changed and that seems a distant and long ago time. I have a beautiful multi-ethnic daughter who has friends of all races, religions, gay and straight. This upcoming generation doesn’t see the difference that others saw a generation ago. The world continues to slowly, oh so slowly, change. As Jackie Robinson’s widow said on this morning’s interview, “We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us.“  May we all stand tall and hold hands.

My beautiful daughter and me

My beautiful daughter and me

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20 responses

7 04 2013
Bonnie

Connie, great story and your daughter is BEAUTIFUL!

I, too was moved by CBS’s Sunday Morning show. I have vague memories of “whites only” drinking fountains. And I do remember hearing one of my parent’s cousin use the “n-word” – and I remember my mom blasting my dad for not yelling at that cousin for using that disgusting word. Of course, that goes to show that women were also discriminated against, as she didn’t feel she as a woman could stand up to a man.

The times, they are a changin’ – albeit slowly.

7 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks Bonnie, my baby girl is as beautiful on the inside and she is on the outside.

7 04 2013
Lisa Stansbury

wonderful!

7 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks Lisa

8 04 2013
Amanda Fox

Love the article and the pic of you and your beautiful daughter. She looks a lot like her mama. 🙂 You are right, it is a slow change, but if nothing else, love can bring people together.

8 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks Amanda, your wonderful story in Huffington Post started me thinking about my own story.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mandy-foxraynor/stereotypes-hes-black-im-white-what-learned_b_2818856.html?utm_hp_ref=fifty&ir=Fifty

8 04 2013
Carpool Goddess

Beautiful post, Connie. I hope times are changing too.

8 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks. I do believe the times are a changin’.

8 04 2013
Pat

Connie, I loved this post. Your daughter is beautiful and your words are so poignant and ring so true with me. One of themes of my recently published memoir is this issue. If you think you’d like it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. http://pattymackz.com/wordpress/book/ I will definitely be passing this post along.

8 04 2013
conniemcleod

Pat, thank you! I would LOVE to read your memoir. I have a Kindle Fire and my email is conleemac@yahoo.com.

8 04 2013
clara54

Thank you for sharing! Unfortunately, a sign of the times that can be forgiven, but, not forgotten.

8 04 2013
conniemcleod

I agree, we have to remember and learn from the past. The mistake is to think that it can’t happen again or that everything is fine the way it is.

13 04 2013
Chelyagogo

Sometimes I, too, am astonished at how quickly this world is changing. One of the many, many reasons I’m looking forward to marriage equality is because–I am convinced–the suicide rate among gay, lesbian and transgendered adolescents will drop. My understanding is that current statistics indicate LGBT teens are between four and six times more likely to attempt suicide. I have to think this marriage debate will mitigate that sense of pain and hopelessness they grow up with. By the way, a wonderful organization for LGBT young people is The Trevor Project, at http://www.thetrevorproject.org. Thanks for encouraging and thoughtful blog post!

13 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thank you for your thoughtful response. And thanks for letting me know about the Trevor project.

17 04 2013
Valerie Brys Kilpatrick

Connie, I do not know if you remember me from those days at Westdale, but I remember you fondly. What thrilled me was to discover this beautiful blog of yours. You are the best kind of woman, and I am so happy to see that that is who you grew up to be…Valerie

17 04 2013
conniemcleod

Valerie, I’m so glad you found me and my blog. Your name strikes a memory. I think back on those childhood Westdale days with such fondness too. Your comment has truly made my day. Thanks!

17 04 2013
Valerie Brys Kilpatrick

PS your daughter is B e a u t i f u l !

17 04 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks, she is my pride and joy.

25 02 2016
Joy

Oh Connie, THANK YOU for sharing this post to me! I see that it was written 3 years ago and though I agree that we live in a world that has slowly changed, we are not there yet, not fully. And for every two steps forward, I feel a step back. I’m so sorry for that 6mos you had to endure but as you said, it also became a gift to you for nurturing even more compassion within you. And that remains to be my prayer; that the citizens of this world grow more compassion within them. Thanks again! Oh and P.S…..I know I said this before, even when you showed me her pic during BAM last year, but I’ll say it again….Jade is such a beautiful lady! And so is her mom, of course!

25 02 2016
conniemcleod

Joy, I love that we have met through the blogging world. We share many things in common, including our belief in social justice. I agree that for every 2 steps forward, there’s a step backwards. It’s frustrating. But I do believe we are slowly moving toward a more just world. Thanks for your kind words about me and my baby girl. She is as beautiful on the inside as the outside.

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