Closets and Sheets
I used to think not knowing was the worst thing. I was the nosy kid, peeking over the dinner table to see which relative was talking crap. I was the pair of brown eyes constantly getting sent away for being in grown folks’ business. It was my speciality. When I became older, I would still be attarcted to drama, but mainly because I like reactions. I like seeing things. I like figuring something out. Challenges were fun, and humans were always a mystery for me. So, I spent many years being nosy, hearing everything I could about a situation to understand things.
In this pursuit of knowledge, I would pick different topics to study. When I was eight and learned about slavery, I read voraciously every slave account that I could digest to understand evey side that I could. Abolitionists, slaveowners, slaves, politicians, other countries, other states. When I was ten and learned about the Holocaust, I made it my perogative to figure out why, and more importantly, how a whole globe let 60 million people get murdered. When I was fourteen and learned that the other sex is magnetically fascinating, I would look at every relationship to figure out how they work to have an optimal relationship when it happened.
The reason that I now realize that misinformation is a greater evil is because of how brains work. I don’t know about other people (my research is still incomplete), but my brain is like Legos. When I was a kid, my brother would get these Lego sets. Cars, houses, spaceships, hideouts. You open a box and all the pieces that you need are with you and they give you instructions. Once you get enough boxes, you can start to customize them. My brother went from making spaceships and death cars to cruise ships and fortresses in a matter of years. My brain is the same. All the things I would learn stored, and when I would get more and see pieces were missing, I would go in and find the missing pieces.
I’ve learned that I’m hard to understand, I’ll give an example or two. I love history. That’s all I talk about because I’ve noticed that history connects a lot of the pieces into something cohesive. When I was in the seventh grade, we had to do this project for the Holocaust, and I had chosen the different people that were targeted for one of my possible projects. There’s the obvious people like Jewish and Polish people, then logically deduced people like homosexuals and political enemies, and then there are the peculiar. For me, it was a picture of these black children, no more than six years old, and a caption that said that the Germans sterilized them. This broke my heart for two reasons. For one, I’ve seen a tube ligation done before and it’s insane. Secondly, though I had to turn the page before sobbing in a library, i could just imagine a parent asking their kid what they did today and hearing, “I hurt because a doctor cut down there”. It was heartbreaking.
Despite there only being about 2,000 black people in Germany at the time, they were rounded up and sterilized and told to leave and never call themselves German again. It was insanely upsetting (making me almost glad that I didn’t have to present on it), but it sat on the shelf after that. It never came up again, though I later expanded my knowledge on sterilization laws in Germany. It wasn’t just black people. The document said (in general “I’m remembering this and not googling anything right now” terms) that if the state says that you aren’t worthy to have a child, you can be sterilized. It stayed with me because it baffled me that the government could do that to people.
That confusion came back to me when I wasreating a timeline based on a society that impregnates/gives terminally ill children to soldiers as a way of jumpstarting the hearts of veterans to get them to either have a new, better look at life to live for or to go on suicide missions for the state. While doing this, I looked up eugenics laws and was shocked to find one in the United States. In the case (from what I remember), a fifteen year old girl from a broken home in a northern Southern state (Virginia or one of the Carolinas, I think) was living with her aunt and uncle when she was raped by a family friend. She ended up giving birth to a daughter that the aunt later raised, and the ordeal made the girl go to a mental hospital for depression and suicidal thoughts. The doctor working on her was, of course, an idiot, and looked at her and deemed that she should be sterilized. The details get cloudy but the United States Supreme Court ruled in Buck v. Bell that it’s okay for a state to mandate for a person to be sterilized.
This is concerning for me for a couple reasons. Yes, there’s the logical “The government is going to contorl everything!” ansswer, but I have a more personal connection to this. My mother’s mother is one of twelve children. Her mother, one of seven children, was the only one of her parents’ children to have offspring. One of her older sisters died in childbirth. Four of her sisters were sterilized, one of her uncles was possibly gay, five of her children were also given hysterectomies before they were twenty-one, and I think all of the sisters have now been sterilized. It is only that facet of the family, so I thought it ws a hereditary uterine issue. But what if it wasn’t? What if the state was like “No” and had all these women sterilized?
Now, of course, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it will be, and there are plenty of obsolete state laws to prove that, but it’s another possibility with more negative connotations. Now, if I hadn’t told you any of the before stuff, none of this would make sense. If I had told you a lie, by the time you came down to this point, you’d have been swayed and your opinion would be built on one of the chewed up, melted Legos that you accidentally left on the stove. If it’s a surface level issue, it’s easier to fix but if it’s a foundational issue, there’s a lot of undoing and redoing involved. And more importantly, when the pieces start coming off, other issues surface.
To summarize the point that I was trying to make in one sentence, when you don’t know, you can add and adjust. When you’re fixing, you have to truly fix it. This is something that takes work. Let me explain with another example. There was a woman that I was in contact with because I was researching my family tree. She was a white woman that reached out to tell me that I had made a mistake and told me that she knew because her great (times six) grandfather kept slave records. So, I asked her how she felt about the situation. We are some odd 200 years removed from when my black and Native American ancestors were owned and raped by the white ancestors that I share with her.
But her answer intrigued me. She basically said that it changed her whole life. I can understand that. She was the seventh generation (that I saw) of his descendents who had owned slaves, enacted Jim Crow laws, lynched black people, burned crosses in their front yards, and she had to look and see that by DNA, we are related. So, the same bullshit that her ancestors were preaching was being corssed by them raping and impregnating black women. It makes one think. Especially since on my dad’s side, my great grandmother was pretty clearly mixed. The story was that her mother was white and her father was black, but it was hard to tell. They left South Carolina to marry and left behind her three/four? children from her first marriage to a white guy. I had tried to reach out to one of the “forgotten” children’s grandson and was told that we are not kin, despite DNA results and a clear link between us.
But, like I said, not knowing is better than knowing the wrong thing. Facing the misinformation and having to go dismantle the pieces was too much for this man who was raised as a white man and raised to hate his mother and siblings. This man’s father (from what I heard) was ashamed of himself and his culture. If he had not known, he’d be comfortable behind his white sheet (seems like an insult but I’m pretty sure my great-great-grandmother’s first husband was a Klansman) and not feel afraid of his peers finding out the truth. For him, I was probably making him accept something he’d rather not know, and rather than dismantle his whole illusion, it was better to pretend to not know, and I can accept that.