With current times, it seems like racial tensions are steadily rising — Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Donald Trump and the animosity that’s rising in response to his run for president. It can all be a little scary, as I’m experiencing and hearing things I’ve never experienced before in regards to race. A few days ago, fresh off my worries, I asked my Grandmother a question — Have you ever experienced racism? To which she answered, “No. I don’t believe so.”
Her answer surprised me. Being 90 years old, born and raised in The Segregation Era of the ‘Old South’, and living during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I was expecting a more detailed description of her firsthand experiences.
Had she truly never experienced racism? I decided to explore this further…
**Disclaimer: Please do not be offended by the terms ‘white’, ‘black’…these are simply the terms my Grandmother are accustomed to.
For someone who never experienced racism, she’s experienced more than what she realizes. While I never experienced being segregated — school, hospital, beach, etc. — being segregated was the norm for an early part of my Grandmother’s life. She remembers seeing crosses and churches burnt down, simply because of the color of their skin.
It was important for me to ask who my Grandmother’s parents were, and how they raised her. Although my parents raised me to be accepting and loving of all people, they also raised me to know that I lived in a racist world. They taught me all about slavery, and segregation, and the Civil Rights Era, etc….did my Grandmother have the same experience with her parents? Surprisingly no! She never had long talks about racism with her parents, like I and many of my peers did. I think in their own way, they still tried to shelter her from the realities of that time — telling her not to visit certain areas of town, etc. You have to remember, her parents (my great-grand parents) were born right after the end of slavery…their parents being born into slavery. Perhaps they did the best they could.
I was most fascinated by how nonchalant my Grandma was about it all. It was something that she simply dealt with as she continued to live her life…no big deal. In his book, Black Wilmington and the North Carolina Way, John Godwin somewhat alluded that this was the general behavior for African-Americans in that area and era:
For civil rights activism to achieve greater currency, black attitudes of accommodation to segregation would have to be set aside…
Was this the reason why my Grandmother claims to never have experienced racism? Did she become so accommodating to segregation that she couldn’t even recognize it? A safety mechanism?
As we continue to navigate through whatever happens next in society, it’s important that we recognize and learn from what has already happened. Racism did exist…and it still does… and not just between black and white. Never again should it evolve to the point of complacency.
Until Next Time,
This is really interesting, I think you are right, that your Grandmother was accustomed to what she was raised in, and so didn’t see it as anything other than normal.
I find it shocking that racism is still an issue in this day and age, it really makes no sense to me. Bless your Grandmother and her risilience and beauty xx
Interesting read. Everyone has experienced racism somewhere at sometime. When is the color of our skin not going to matter!
Oh my gosh, I loved this! First of all, your grandma is HILARIOUS! She was on to you with all of your questions. 😉 And I love what she said at the end–maybe that’s how God intended for us to be (mixed). I’m biracial (half-asian) and members of my family and I throughout the generations have experienced racism. It’s a very sad thing. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I love this, thanks so much for sharing. Being in LA, I feel like I don’t experience racism because it’s such a liberal diverse environment, but believe it or not I’ve experienced it while traveling overseas! Especially being in a mixed race relationship.
God bless your grandmother at 90 years old. She must have seen so much in her lifetime. The state of our country is really scary right now and I hate how divided it seems at times.
Girlllll THANK YOU for sharing this!!! First off your grandmother is hilarious. I love her!!! I also agree with MIranda, I feel like living in LA, we are super diverse. Not saying that racism doesnt exist because you better believe it totally does, but I feel like as someone of a mixed race, living in CA compared to other parts of the world I havent been subject to any of it.
My teen is currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird for school. I think that there was so much racism at that time that it was just normal. So sad.
Yess!! I had to read that book as well! It was so astonishing to me that this was such the norm, it didn’t even faze my grandma. It made me feel sad, yet so proud of her at the same time 🙂
I feel like this is going to be my favorite new series ever. Your Grandma is a beautiful woman (and seriously she is so adorable!) and this post really brought tears to my eyes. It sickens me that race has ever been an issue then and also now. People are (I had to erase a word several times because I can’t think of anything but a cuss word to describe what these people are lol). Thank you for sharing this time with your Grandma, I just love her to pieces. I look forward to episode 2!!!
Awww thank you so much, I’m glad you’re enjoying the series so far! It’s definitely sad that this is an issue, but there’s so much hope in knowing that there are more people who ‘love’ instead of ‘hate’. <3
This is an amazing series. I hate that racism was ever ‘normal’, but it’s really interesting to hear about it from someones point of view who was there.
Wow, this article was so interesting in your approach. I was surprised to hear your Grandmother’s response however it makes sense once you explained her upbringing and how topics of slavery, segregation and racism were never discussed. I hope to have those kind of discussions with my children as they grow. We have a responsibility to raise our children to be socially aware and I want to provide that for my family.
yes! This was really surprising to me! It’s an important discussion to have!
I really love this insight. I really hate racism and I’m so sad that it was such a big thing and that it still freaking exists. It was interesting to hear it from her point of view!