Following three other posts, it’s time to get a little bit more into the brighter side of things, because there is a bright side. As stated previously, I didn’t go to school with a lot of white people, particularity 3rd through 10th grades. I did make friends, though.
When I moved to Lawrence, it was quite a big culture shock, and things got (even more) complicated. My father wanted me, as he told me, to be socially acceptable, “make a lot of friends,” and carry out his political agenda (as his child), yet it became apparent I would be completely unable to do the final part. In fact, it is likely because he insisted on this, that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. This was largely because my family has a tendency to use racist language. By telling me to be vocal about it, I was quite the target by the student body over the issue of racism. Throughout elementary school, I was constantly educated on understanding racism.
Although I was receptive to understanding this, my family wasn’t. This lead to many, many problems at home, notably my parents making political statements, or my father using foul language regarding people of color (aligning them as criminals, thieves, etc.) while making statements that “people like us” were somehow better. Arguments frequently erupted over politics, even when I was sitting quietly doing my homework. By taking a different political position than him, I had, as my father put it, “placed shame on the family.” I was to be shamed, and shamed by them I was, and still am.
My family took no energy to understand how I felt, why I felt that way, and why any advice (often was given LOADS of advice, blowing up completely in my face every time) failed, so they concluded I was dealing with these problems because I was the failure. It explained why my father’s advice, apparently, never succeeded. His advice just wasn’t the problem. I was.
Another example of class occurred regarding an apparent teacher, Mr. Sullivan, who the students suspected live in Andover, not Lawrence, and decided to call him out on it. I certainly didn’t necessarily understand this, as my parents did live in Lawrence, and they didn’t seem to understand themselves… yet I was to believe just because one of the teachers lived in Andover, they would be unable to understand? That whole thing just made no sense. By the time I entered high school, this no longer mattered, because it was located in Andover.
Because I was openly gay, many of the guys didn’t prefer to associate with me much, for fear that hanging out with a gay guy would be enough that rumor would spread that they were gay. It was yet another silly thing. Much of my youth I was surrounded by girls/women, not out of personal choice, and they helped explain sexism to me. We would have long conversations about it. I learned through this just how OK it was to ask questions, because they wanted me to ask, and I wanted to listen.
Just as the talks about sexism occurred, when talking about racism, I was also permitted to ask questions. It was the only way I’d be able to understand it, so when I heard “Lawrence is crazy!”, or statements like my father that generalized criminal activity about Lawrence (suggesting it’s “unsafe” to be there), my friends explained to me that those statements weren’t about white people in Lawrence, they were directed towards people of color. They were/are about people of color. They were about them, and their families. The people I knew in Lawrence weren’t bad people, neither their families, and were more prone to experiencing violence than being violent.
When I stand up for people of color today, I don’t stand up because of my family. They couldn’t care a little. They prefer Billerica to Lawrence:
The girls I knew in school taught me better than my father, who, to encourage me to be straight, would make sexual comments about my schoolmates (on their figures, breasts), something very creepy, and very inappropriate. After all, my father is a grown (married) man while my schoolmates were often younger than me, due to me being withheld twice. So, this sort of means that my father was openly objectifying underage girls to his own son, stating that it was nothing wrong because he was straight, while me being interested in other guys was “unnatural,” and that it wasn’t “God intended,” whereas his comments about girls was more like what God wanted. Many of the girls whom he made these comments regarding knew about this through me, as I always came to their defense over my own father, very easily, and rightfully so. Still, it’s weird, creepy, and inappropriate.