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When a baby is brought into this world, they are fully dependent on the adults in their life — for food, nurturing, teaching, and guidance. Not all children learn the same values from their parents or significant adults.
Some learn tolerance, while others are taught to hate. Some learn to be wary and distrusting, and others are outgoing, without a care in the world.
I wish my training was different and that my father was a dependable man — he was not. We moved so many times that I cannot remember the proper sequence of events in my childhood. I have a memory of attending one school for a few weeks then moving again.
It was hard to make friends. I only remember one girl who made an impression on a third-grade white girl — she was a “mixed girl,” as mom would say.
My father expressed his disgust whenever we crossed paths with a bi-racial couple. Only he never uttered that term; he would say, “look at that beautiful white woman with that nigger. Such a shame, their babies will be abominations.”
So here I was about 8 or 9 years old, a trained racist with a friend who was not exactly white. But I was curious, was she this horrible creature beneath her smile? It was not the first time I was confused about my father’s values.
We went to church every week, but not the neighborhoods where we lived. We lived in low-income communities, and “those people did not worship the same God.”
He taught our dogs to “go after” Black people in our yard. Even a third-grader knew something was wrong with his logic. I was terrified to tell him about my father about my new friend, so I made a plan.
First, I had to ditch my younger brothers and sisters. So, I decided to ask mom if I could ride my bike and tore out of the driveway like a demon fleeing satan, making sure I was not followed.
By the time I drove up unto her driveway, I had questioned my choice. My father would be angry. This was the first time I deliberately planned a lie to tell my parents.
I was scared. What was I going to find at her house? Would her dad be there? How was I supposed to act?
In my eyes, her white mom was like mine; she was pretty and nice. Like my mom, she was taking care of one of my friend’s brothers. After greeting me, she suggested that my friend and I went to play in the backyard.
I do not remember when I first saw her father, but I remember he was not what mine had taught me. His demeanor was calm, not angry. He was nice to his kids and wife.
My young mind was baffled. I asked him why — why was he married to my friend’s mom? His answer was amazing; he responded, “because I love her.” If he loved his wife like my father loved my mom, how could he be a bad person?
To this day, I believe his answer awakened me to my father’s lies. It crushed me when I learned he was wrong. My knight in shining armor fell off his white horse.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Featured Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawks’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of brandi’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License