How I learned about race and race relations…

12 Nov

Many know I’ve been steeped in my past lately since mom passed, this blog became my sanctuary, my outlet.  I thank everyone who hung in there, and also gave me grace.  Now that life is returning to normal, I find myself thinking of both the good and not so good memories.  Trying to decide if sharing the hard parts will help parents today dealing with their own hard parts of raising their adopted children who struggle mightily.  On one hand, I think it could, on the hand, it would require opening up about the bad, the ugly.  I’m leaning to sharing, but I’m not there yet.  Today, I am going to share how inadvertently mom and dad taught us about race, race relations, different cultural practices, which will also tell you how old I am…

First some background.  Every year we went on a multi-week vacation.  It was the only way for dad to escape seeing as his office was the ground floor of our home, and so if they needed him, they called and came, sometimes without calling first, you didn’t go to the hospital back then, you went to your doctor.

So, every summer we escaped.  Usually camping, exploring, hiking through the National Parks.  This was the first vacation I remember where we didn’t load up the station wagon full of camping gear, instead, we were going to fly in airplanes.  The year was 1967 and I was six-years-old.  I remember that we dressed in our best clothes for the flight.  Our first stop was Toronto to visit relatives, then we were off to go to the 1967 Worlds Fair in Montreal.  All I remember there was tired feet, and more importantly, riding for hours above the crowds sitting on dad’s broad shoulders with a birds-eye view of everything as he was well over six feet tall.

After the Worlds Fair we went down to explore New York City and stayed with more relatives, then onto Washington DC to explore before heading home.  An extraordinary vacation for that era.  But it was back in New York City where I got my first introduction to how your life was different based on your race.  The divide between races.  Even if I didn’t understand it yet, it started then.

The weekend came and as our relatives were a different religion, dad asked for the phone book to look up the address for our church.  He found the closest one, gave my uncle the address, and was told that address was to a Black Church in Harlem, and he should find another address and they’d willingly drive us further to another one.  Dad said no, that was the closest church and we’d go there.  So, we did.

Out of all the wondrous adventures of that trip, from riding on airplanes, a World Fair, the monuments, buildings, museums of Washington DC, I remember vividly all the feelings evoked that day at church.  We arrived just before the service started, the church was filled, every row.  The deacons welcomed us, got some folks to move, some to slide over a bit to allow us to squeeze into their pew, then guided us up the aisle about two-thirds of the way up on the left-hand side.  Funny how even where we sat is clear in my mind all these years later.  Then my entire concept of what going to church was like, was rocked.  I was used to quiet, somber, boring services, we kneeled for prayer, had a couple of staid opening songs, scripture reading, special music, sermon, closing song, prayer, the end.  The boredom ended and we hurried out.  This service was filled with joy and love over-flowing through everyone, it was palpable to this little six-year-old.  Everyone was engaged, a part of it.  The music was different, beautiful, uplifting, joyous, the voices all around us were so beautiful, rich, full, and people moved with the music.  The service was filled with members spontaneously voicing amen, praise the Lord, and other messages of love at different points throughout the pastor’s sermon.  Noon came and went, and we knew we’d have to go before it was over because our Uncle was coming to pick us up between 12.30-1:00 as that had been arranged based on our services ended at noon.  This service was different in this way as well, people had brought their lunch, it didn’t end at noon, it was just beginning and would go on throughout the afternoon.  Dad leaned over and whispered to the person sitting next to him about our dilemma, told it was all good, no one would be offended, just to get up and go out.  The deacons in the back were gracious, understanding, and wouldn’t let us wait outside for our ride, one of them went out to watch for our ride, then we left.

At six years old, growing up in a rural area predominantly white other than the Native Americans, I had no idea about different races, or what was happening.  Mom and dad watched the nightly news with Walter Cronkite, got the paper everyday, but at six, I had no awareness of the racial tensions simmering at the breaking point across the country.  I didn’t know about segregation.  Racism.  The hatred many whites had for Black people.  The harm done to so many Black people by white people filled with hatred for them.

I was too young to understand when President Kennedy was assassinated, but after that church service, then when Dr. King was assassinated, and then Robert Kennedy, I was growing more aware, and mom and dad in their quiet way continued teaching us by their actions, that everyone was equal and deserving.  We didn’t have long talks, their actions and choices to embrace everyone, taught us to not judge someone on the color of their skin.

It’s another era of troubled times.  Which path you choose matters now more than any other era of your life.  Choose wisely.  I hope you choose not to be quiet when ugly is spoken about people of color, when ugly reaches out and harms people of color, when bad laws are put forth.  Please choose to rid yourself of any ugly inside you, choose to walk the path mom and dad did, teach your children racism, segregation have no place in your world.




Posted by on November 12, 2016 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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11 responses to “How I learned about race and race relations…

  1. Lara/Trace

    November 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    I can only say that your experience filled me with joy. That this is a good world and we have to make sure it stays this way. I have a husband from Harlem and I would give my life for him. We have so much love in this world. I refuse to participate in hate.


  2. beth62

    November 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing that TAO, I love hearing your family stories. Takes me back too. Our Dad’s would have likely enjoyed each other’s company very much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      November 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      I worry that there aren’t dad’s like ours anymore…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. beth62

    November 14, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Well, try not to over worry 🙂 I know quite a few, of all races and ages. And many of them are brand new Dads, and very Gung ho about it all. But they have SUV’s or minivans with air-conditioning!, instead of the good ole station wagon…. and lots more information and teaching opportunities than our Dad’s ever had.

    We have a new museum in our nations capital.
    I know my Dad would have taken us to it (aka – made us go lol) as kids if it were there back then too, along with the other museums, capital bldg, white house, treasury, memorials and all that other stuff I found so boring as a kid 🙂 I would have moaned and groaned and complained about my feet hurting there too. That’s just how it works sometimes Dads – do it anyway! I remember every bit of it, even where we sat 🙂 Today I don’t complain at all, I appreciate my Dad even more for it. >>>>see him up there on that awesome Dad pedestal? 🙂 That’s where I keep him.

    I chose that word on purpose, haha

    Gung ho is an anglicised pronunciation of “gōng hé” (工合), The two Chinese characters “gōng” and “hé” are translatable individually as “work” and “together”.

    I’m all about some Gung ho lately…. imagine that…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. beth62

    November 15, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Still thinking about the dads, and this just makes me grin.
    Not only did my Dad have the courage to visit a black church when we moved to a new town, he joined it, and is still a member in another town he moved to, and still attends, with paint brush in hand, and sends lots of money to both.
    That’s my Dad 🙂


    • TAO

      November 15, 2016 at 4:22 am

      I think growing up during the depression made or broke people, and those that were made never forgot the lessons they learned. Thanks Beth…


  5. beth62

    November 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    i think they just dont make em like that anymore.
    Yet, I have high hopes, from what I have seen, that many of the new ones made will be even better.
    But now I’m just grumpy about it all cause I have to go to awful DC today for a meeting LOL I honestly loathe the place.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. L4R

    November 15, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    When people are afraid and they view resources as limited, we see more “othering.” That’s what’s happening right now.

    Yes, we have bigots, but we also have people who just didn’t think to concern themselves with “other” people’s problems because they were either so focused on their own problems or viewed the other people as the problem.

    Yes, this “era of troubled times,” as you call it, includes heavy doses of racism, but it includes all othering categories. It’s an era that embraces racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, xenophobia.

    Tough days are ahead. But, I also have hope. When I was out walking, I saw a sign in a yard which read “Immigrants make America great.” It made me smile.

    All too often hatred is covert. It’s harder to see. Right, the dam of hatred is being opened, and we can see it more readily. Maybe that will make it easier to battle. I am hopeful that we can continue to make strides toward eliminating the -isms.


    • TAO

      November 15, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Me too L4R and agree the hate extends further. I do think I need to stand up more often, I’m trying.


  7. beth62

    November 16, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Feeling entirely too stuck in the middle today. I can’t take it anymore!!!!!!!!!
    Just because you’re white doesn’t mean you voted red, or blue
    Just because you’re black doesn’t mean you voted blue, or red
    Being one or the other doesn’t mean you are a racist, nor does it mean that you are not.
    white people and black people make good money, are educated, live in the city and the country.
    white people and black people live in poverty, are uneducated, live in the city and the country.
    white people and black people want the government to take care of them and their neighbors who need it.
    white people and black people want the government to get the hell out of their way, and their wallets, so they can take care of themselves and their neighbors.

    I blame the media. It’s not the first time in history that our media has started a war, or stirred up hateful attitudes like they have today. I hope more people will call THEM out too. CNN MSN FOX – all the entertainment news is so full of shit. Some only watch one side or the other, and it is VERY apparent in either case. Especially to those of us that can understand EVERYONE’s legit reason to be mad about one thing or another. I hope many can turn off their tv and internet, at least for a while, and read their local newspapers and actually discuss and talk kindly to their neighbors instead.

    Can ya tell we had breakfast with “Archie Bunker, George Jefferson and Mabel Madea” this morning 🙂
    Could use directions to a really tall bridge about now.
    Thanking all that is sane that I get to hang around with my 103 year wise old black boyfriend for the rest of the day. If I could only find a way to share what he has to share with me and mine, with everyone, the world would be much better. I’ve scoured the internet and libraries for historical events that he talks about, knows about, and everything I find is so full of obvious biased shit in one direction or another (according to him, and me), that it’s not as easy as pasting a link to a webpage to try and explain things that have happened in the past and where we ended up after the madness caused by the Media.
    I’ve decided to stick with Genealogist’s History from now on. Individual’s stories and views of the events of the time, not the broad sweeping generalized bullshit written by the winners or the losers of any event, time, place.



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