*I exceed the word limit again on the original challenge, but I figured if I’m gonna just type all this up I’ll post it anyway. Folks can like it or leave it as they need.
My grandparents sent me five articles on the evils of socialism for my birthday.
They came in a separate envelope from my card, which included the normal well-wishes. Inside with the clippings of the articles from their AMAC magazine they included a short handwritten note saying “No matter what you’re our grandchild, and we love you.” It was on top of the folded printout extolling Trump’s achievements in office.
*pause for sigh*
They’ve sent me religious books, clippings, etc. They’ve said it’s okay if I have homosexual friends, they just can’t wrap their heads around it after praying on the issue. And I imagine this is where my liberal friends would say, “Ugh, why do you still call these people in Texas on holidays?”
*pause for sigh*
The thing about being white is - yes, my progenitors have serious issues and none of them are excusable. I acknowledge that. But I can’t “cancel” my grandparents, I’m sorry.
And I’m going to explain here why I think that’s OK. Not because I’m going to convince the die-hard liberals in my circle, but because I expect lots of other white kids out there face this same issue every single day.
Growing up, my grandparents treated me better than their own children, as my parents would often bitterly point out. If your children are your first chance to screw up, your grandchildren are your second chance to do better. Grandma literally told me that.
Everyone in my family can agree on at least one thing - the next generation should do better. That’s the creed on all sides. You raise your children not so they can carry on your legacy, but so they can surpass it.
And that’s about all they agree on.
It feels like I rarely see white families living in multi-generational households; I see it more now, because my siblings’ generation can no longer afford childcare or housing, but until these times it seemed our cycle of life consisted of, “OK, I’ve turned 18, I can get the hell away from these people!” My parents, however, couldn’t completely cut off their family ties; when my mom found herself single with a child she begrudgingly moved back home and my grandma took her in. She might have been judgey about it, but she never denied her the help she needed. Even my mom acknowledged that.
For a small example of why white families living together doesn’t alway work out: My great-grandmother would routinely yell the “N” word at baseball players on TV, whereas my grandmother never uttered it but still avoided anyone of color and claimed that MLK was a rabble rouser. My mother had to lecture both of them to never use hate language in front of her children, let us learn about history in school, and to accept our black friends when we wanted them to come to our parties. Granted my grandmatrons never did more than trash talk in front of us; maybe that’s evil enough, but I’ve known other families with even more inexcusable behavior that no amount of Sesame Street could compensate for. It’s easier to teach tolerance when you can build your own household around it; unfortunately, if your grandparents can’t fall in line, it’s difficult to make that happen without living apart.
My great-grandmother lived alone until she fell and could no longer do so; with great reluctance, my grandmother took her in until she passed away. My grandmother now lives in assisted living, after my aunt couldn’t handle her living in her house anymore. My other grandparents, reversely, can’t stand my parents so they went and chose their own assisted living facility to retire in when they started getting too old to live alone.
These generational gaps are real, and I’m not sure there’s an easy solution to them. Perhaps it’s not only a white person issue, either; but I feel like I see more multigenerational families of other races out there, while senior living centers look like washed out blankets of snow. Maybe that’s just another facet of white privelege - we can afford to pay other people to deal with our elderly bigots when we’re tired of dealing with them ourselves. Or maybe the generational hardships other races face bring their families together, while the dismantling of my race’s generational privelege requires breaking us down.
Neither of my parents cut us off from our grandfolk completely though. They often used our grandparents’ follies as teaching moments of “don’t do that - be better”; they left the amount of interaction up to us as we got older and could decide for ourselves how much diatribe we could withstand.
“What’s the point of keeping communication with them?” my liberal friends might think. “They’re hopeless - they’re too old to change.”
Perhaps. However, I have to recognize two things: 1) they might be too old to change, but they weren’t too short-sided to raise children who did; maybe that was out of rebellion, but I’d like to think the same core values they always preached - hard work, respect, free-thought, compassion - stuck somewhere 2) they don’t base their love for me on acceptance of my ideas and values - they still love my socialist arse even as I run headlong in the opposite direction.
My liberal friends will be quick to point out this is touching and all, but these assholes still helped get Trump elected and I need to nip this shit in the bud.
Alright, fair point. Yet who has a better chance of open dialogue with a Trump supporter like my grandpa? My liberal friend who already thinks he’s an asshole - and will treat him as such - or me, his grandchild who made him crayon scribbles of bugs in grade school? Both of us might be wasting our breath waiting for him and the rest of the “grand old party” base to die; but if that’s the end result either way, why is my approach worse?
Maybe I can’t change his mind, no. However, I can get him to respect my viewpoint because he respects me. I’ve earned that. He may think I’ve been brainwashed by left-wing educational systems, but he won’t ever think I’m an idiot.
White folks think being an ally means loving the people of color and pride that you want to support - and yeah, that’s part of it; but I think the other part is leveraging the love your asshat disfunctional white family still has for you to try and wedge more acceptance and tolerance into your own community. We might try to dump or run away from our elders, but we’re just leaving them to rant and vote alone that way. That’s not taking responsibility; I’d say that’s more like abdicating it.
I’ll acknowledge this doesn’t work with all families; some personalities are just too hard-headed, too angry, or too divided to overcome it. However, I’ve realized over the years that my grandparents keep sharing their opinions with me not only because they’re trying to “help” me with their supposed wisdom, but because when I respond they actually listen to what I have to say.
When my grandpa gave a monologue on how difficult it was for him to try and accept homosexuality, I had no idea why the hell he started on it. We were eating pie and playing Pinochle; I hadn’t brought up any hot topics I just wanted to win the next hand. Yet apparently he’d stayed up till the late hour of 9 PM watching a PBS special on it, and it nawed at him. I realized when he paused that he was waiting for me to explain how I felt. He honestly couldn’t accept it, but wanted to hear why I had. And after I gave my bit, he nodded, and said “I know, and I don’t think I can do it, but that’s okay, you’re not wrong. That’s probably the way of the future.” And, as again with every birthday card, he reminded me he loved me.
I might be a socialist free-love hippie, but I’m their “better” generation; I’m the culmination of their efforts, their great-grandparents’ efforts, and all the assholes that came before them. Maybe those efforts were evil; but if so, then I'm their hope at redemption.
This process is too slow for many; it’s not perfect, and it’s still onging - and I get that. I’m not excusing the actions of my ancestors, or my living relatives. I’m trying to do better.
Yet as I told my grandpa over pralines, we don’t always get to choose who we love. However, I believe love is almost always a better option to choose than hate.