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Kansas City MO 64131

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Filtering by Tag: fighting back

WHITE

Cindy Maddera

We received the results of my mother’s DNA test months ago. It came back saying that my Mom’s DNA is 79% England, Wales and Northern European. The other 21% is from Ireland and Scotland. There is not even a smidgen of Native American or African American. My Mom’s side of the family is white and they have been in the Americas since the 1700s. They were part the group of European settlers that ended up in the Mississippi and Louisiana areas. I am sure that means that at some point, I have some ancestors that fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War and it is possible that I had some ancestors that owned another human being or beings. This is information I suspected before doing any research on the family tree just because of how entrenched into Mississippi my family on both sides seems to be.

Sometimes genetics is not the only thing that can be passed down the generations. Racism, for instance, is a learned behavior that can pass along the generations. I had some family members tell me some pretty racist things whenever we visited Mississippi, things that they were taught by their parents, which their parents learned from their parents and so on. I had more than one cousin tell me how lucky I was that I didn’t have to go to school with “any black kids.” I remember looking at them in confusion because I had no idea why that made me ‘lucky’. I still don’t know why that made me lucky. If anything, the lack of diversity in my childhood was a hinderance and I’ve been trying to make up for it in my adulthood. Whenever I have an African American person show up for one of my yoga classes, I get ridiculously over friendly. “Hi! Welcome! I’m so glad you you came to this class!” I go above and beyond to make them feel comfortable, which means I am probably making them uncomfortable. I do the same thing at work, particularly when I cross paths with an African American women. The other day, I passed a young African American women in the hall and I was all “Hi!” and even waved at her like she was my best friend. We do not know each other.

Part of it is that I am desperately trying to convince this population of people that I am on their side. I’m one of the good guys. I am begging them to please do not be afraid of me; I am not dangerous. The other part of me is hoping that I am being encouraging. I want diversity in these white saturated areas because science and yoga are for everyone and I am desperately trying to make amends for my ancestors. I know that my behavior is a symptom of growing up surrounded by white, but I am trying really hard to show that the cycle of passing down racism can be broken. Because every day there is a news story about some white person doing something hateful and racist. White Nationalism is now a thing. Radio hosts are encouraging lynching raids. An uncomfortably large number of white people think that racism is A-okay.

Not this white person.

It is useless to apologize for my whiteness. I can’t help genetics. But I can make my life more diverse and welcoming. I can be a shield against the hatefulness. I can break cycles.

THE ENCOUNTER

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I were out killing time before we went to dinner on Saturday evening. We had reservations to eat our weight in sushi for six and we had just been wandering out most of the day looking for mushroom paste. Finally we stumbled into a tiny little grocery store that specializes in German foods. Werner's specializes in german sausages and deli meats. They also have racks of chocolates and mustards. I convinced Michael to try the liverwurst. He was skeptical, but once he tasted it, he declared it to be delicious. The woman behind the counter smiled with delight and said "Oh good! I make it here myself." We  passed more pleasantries back and forth. I told them about how my old boss, who is German, ordered us lunch from here once. I couldn't eat anything but the potato salad and pickles, but those things were wonderful. I could have eaten all of the pickles. 

Then I was trying tell them my old boss's last name, except all I could do was spell it because I realized that I had never had to say his last name out loud. When you spell it out it sounds something like "wine-grab". Michael looked at me and said "That can't be his name. That sounds like a member of Trump's cabinet." We all laughed, but then this man standing behind Michael says in a very hateful tone "your mother." We pause, both of us slightly confused. In fact Michael even asks "what?" The man repeats himself "your mother." It takes Michael a minute but then he gets it and says "Ohhh...you're equating my stupid Trump joke to my mother. Okay." Then Michael turns to the man and asks "Are you upset about something?" The man narrows his eyes. His skin is that kind of white that flushes pink when embarrassed or angry. He looks at Michael and says "Only with you." You could feel the anger and hate radiating off him in waves and I felt my heart leap a little sideways in my chest with fear. 

I finished paying for our things and looked at the people behind the counter with sincerity as I said "thank you so much, we can't wait to come back." Michael looked at the angry man and said "whatever man." and we headed out the door. At the last minute, I yelled out a "God bless you" as I stepped out. My heart was racing and I was still a little in shock about the whole encounter. I hadn't seen it coming. Neither one of us had been prepared for such an encounter. It never even dawned on me that I would even be involved in such an encounter, which I know is naive. The bubble I was living in burst with this moment and I have not been able to get it out of my head. Michael and I joke about it now, answering each other's questions with "your mother." We were on the Kansas side when this happened and now when we are in that area we refer to it as "out of the blue." We'll warn each other "hey...be careful. You're out of the blue here."  

I've thought of a million things I could have said to that man instead of just standing there in shock. Mostly though, I feel sorry for him. I pity his life that is so miserable that an innocent dumb joke could set off so much anger. I also wanted to tell him to get ready to be really angry at jokes for the next four years, because our President Elect practically writes the jokes himself. Have you seen his Twitter feed? Comedy is how some of us are going to be able to deal with ridiculousness to come and that angry man, who's candidate won the election, is just going to remain angry even if his country gets better for him. I am not going to be on guard about the things that I might say when I am 'out of the blue'. I'm not going out of my way to pick a fight, but I'm not going sit back and worry that saying anything about a government policy I do not agree with is going make the man standing next to me to become violent. That's what people  in Nazi Germany had to do. That's what some people in not so 'free' countries have to do. That is not something as a citizen protected by the First Amendment has to do.

From now on, I'm fighting back, because I am no longer shocked. I am no longer scared. Now, I'm angry. I am angry for letting this little man intimidate me into silence and I am not going to let it happen again. I see your hatefulness and I will not let it silence me.