Well thank you. I like to tackle the really hard problems, and man. This one was like Calculus. You probably won’t get many takers on this one.
But, I think these are important questions for those of us who truly want to heal and move beyond it all. We have to come to terms with the dysfunction and we have to grieve it.
I have been trying to get my family to, “get off the plantation” for quite sometime. By that, I mean stop relying on abusive slave owner techniques and psychology to relate to other family members, those who are supposed to be your loved ones. Don’t devalue a child, simply because he or she has dark skin, that sort of thing.
When I raise these issues, I get ignored and stonewalled by the lighter family members who have benefited from this sort of “light privilege.” The darker ones, will usually say nothing publicly, but often secretly confide to me how much this dynamic hurts them. It seems to never get resolved-and all these people are black, afraid to confront slavery as a legacy, just comfortable with the status quo being what it is, though it is very hurtful to many family members. I think they prefer the status quo because confronting the issue would be far more uncomfortable, at least in the short run.
I would imagine if you were to bring white people into this equation, the dynamic would very much be the same. I think it’s a very human thing, to want to maintain power and privilege at the costs of those who don’t have it.
If you decide to speak out against this, especially in your own family, the repercussions can be harsh. Even something as innocuous as reaching out to black relations can have some very heavy repercussions, depending upon the family. Some families confronting the issue have decided to do it together as a family…that’s probably the best way, otherwise it’s an issue that can tear a family apart.
When you upset that apple cart (believe me, I’ve done it), I don’t know if anything positive is accomplished.
I honestly can’t say whether I’ve done more harm than good. I know that my darker skinned relatives seem to appreciate me and my efforts. But even this is dissatisfying to me, because they never seem to totally reject the status quo.
The lighter ones refuse to take any responsibility for their part in the dysfunction, but at least respect me enough to understand that I’m not going to play their game. They seem to respect me for that.
Most people respect me for my integrity at least. It doesn’t ever win me any popularity contests, however, I assure you.
I feel for your husband for wanting to make things right. I think a lot of people in these situations do. Maybe it’s the reason I speak out about my family’s dysfunction, but it’s a really hard road. No one wants to confront ugly truths. The internet and social media is making it unavoidable, however.
I think it’s good that you’re writing about it though. It’s a way of processing difficulty and hidden feelings that people in your husband’s family probably can’t even begin to process. Think of yourself as a proxy processor. Someone attempting to emotionally process this mess. Even though it isn’t the actual family members, the processing helps. I think. Even for you to even say the things you said. I think it helps.
I remember, in my con law class, as we discussed slavery and other atrocities, the diverse class became tense and antsy.
My professor said to us, “People, these are treacherous waters we are navigating, but we’re going to proceed on through.”
I respected him so much for that. He could have quit, moved on to other topics, shut the conversation down as soon as it got dicey. But he didn’t. Indeed, we proceeded to talk it through.
Which, in the South, is no small thing. Most Southerners get extremely uncomfortable around conversations about slavery. They remain very conflicted. They still haven’t admitted as a culture, how brutal and immoral that institution was. The reasons for denial are complex. But that is a whole other thing.
As a human race, we trudge through. All of us dealing and coping as best we can.