American identity, black in a multi-culti world

Something about roots, culture, and history (I guess).

Yesterday morning a dear friend, of Scotch-Irish descent born and raised in Appalachia who has long since forged a new life and path with her (non-Appalachian) husband and children, handed me a book.

Hillbilly Elegy, which I’d never heard of despite its being a best seller, has fascinated me since I picked it up last evening. In the years since I’ve known my friend, she has been trying to get me to *get* the universality of certain experiences in a way that I didn’t until I started reading this book.

There were numerous accounts and recollections offered from J.D. Vance’s upbringing that I related to quite strongly.[1]  He offered examples and experiences that I could have written almost verbatim, but for the cast of characters and regional backdrop. This, even though I am as far removed from Appalachian culture as anyone I know.

Many of his conflicting feelings and emotions (feelings which my friend has also expressed over the years) resonated with me. How, did I connect with this white hillbilly -his description of himself- from the Appalachian hills in a way that would seem pretty unthinkable to me, a black woman raised in the black, working class south?

It really came down to the same thing that built the connection between my friend and I. I used to think it was that we both loved Jesus, but nope. There are plenty of people who genuinely love Jesus but with whom I’d just as soon not be bothered. Rather, it is tension of being similarly situated on numerous fronts:

  • Raised in a culture among people who we loved and who loved us,
  •  a culture with deep roots and strong virtue,
  • but a culture also in the grips of strong vice and pathology, which
  • limits the ability to achieve, grow, and thrive without leaving those behind, while
  • still feeling a deep gratitude for what it imparted to you even as
  • your sanity and the future of your children demands that you move on from it.

As I talked with my daughter about it this morning, she was less incredulous. Across the board, she noted, people are increasingly classless and it is quite common now to find people of various backgrounds and ethnicities involved in various displays of dysfunction. The stereotypes are becoming increasingly obsolete and the dysfunction generally associated with the poor or ghetto classes are seen every where except among the upper crust.

Of course, while she certainly witnesses the tension of which I write, she does so from a more comfortable vantage point. Which is the very thing we wanted for our children; the ability to see, analyze, and understand without emotional or psychological weights. In effect, any double consciousness they experience is spiritual in nature (in the world not of it and all that), rather than ethnic or cultural, as described by W.E.B. DuBois.

Somehow, my man seems less hamstrung by the weights than I. As usual, he is the anchor to my rocking boat, the lighthouse our kids use to navigate the storm that typifies today’s stormy cultural waters. But then, he generally ignores commentary: from the left, right, and others, choosing to think for himself. “True intelligence [about an issue]”, he said recently, “Comes from taking the time to really think about a thing, not simply regurgitating what someone else said about it, and that includes randomly spouting off cherry-picked Scriptures.”

[1] Thomas Sowell penned the research that connected a lot of these dots several years ago, but because he is that damnable combination of black and conservative, this research is rarely spoken of when dysfunctional cultural narratives are discussed.

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Something about roots, culture, and history (I guess).”

  1. Hey sweet lady…I do have a response to this…a kinda longish one, but I’m feeling some kinda way about not knowing this Blog existed.

    Anyhow, I’m sending some sistas (in need, for real) this way.

    Be back soon…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pedat! Long time no hear from, my brother!

    First off, I beg your pardon for making you feel *some kinda way*. I just kind of figured anyone who read the book review blog would eventually find their way here.

    Looking forward to your response. I will add though, that this blog is a chronicle of stuff I think about -sort of stream of consciousness- more than anything I expect to be of real use to anyone. I’ve gotten over myself the past year and realize I have a lot my own issues to work on.

    However, read as much as you like and share as much as you like…I think. 🙂

    Like

  3. I’ve taken a little time to think about this some more, and a few things sprang to mind. The first is that it is entirely possible to embrace the good of your heritage and move beyond the “bad”. For instance, despite the 30 minute trek, we still drive to the other side of town every Sunday and attend church in the town where I attended church most of my childhood. Different church with a slightly higher socioeconomic and more educated demographic, but it’s membership is 95% black.

    Anyone who has read here or anywhere else I’ve written at knows that despite my fondness for all genres of music, R&B? It’s in my blood and I still enjoy it, although usually of the older variety.

    But one of the things we found as a young married couple (and my husband decided this very early in our marriage) was that even those families who raised their children with the utmost due diligence and care to what they were taught and exposed to couldn’t spare their children from the influence of the wider community. In a community where illegitimacy is normal and largely without judgment, more girls get pregnant, from the preacher’s daughters on down. In a community where most of the boys are being raised without a father, more of the boys get in trouble, including the sons of the deacons and the most successful entrepreneur in town. Even though those men are right there, trying to teach their sons right from wrong.

    And so, my husband said from the jump that we were moving our family to the next county with better schools, where it cost more to live, and where our kids would be raised in an environment where the lowest common denominator was not considered normal. And we did. Our kids have been better for it, but in reality, they still know who they are and where they came from. My father, after all, looms large in my hometown, and they are proud of that legacy he left behind.

    What we haven’t done however, is fallen into the trap of believing that excusing the inexcusable because someone black does it. We haven’t fallen into the trap of believing that “blackness” is defined by adhering to a certain set of beliefs or the acceptance of a certain set of behaviors.

    We retain the same right as every other group of people, to think freely and disagree, even vehemently with those who share our hue and to have deep and meaningful friendships with people of different hues.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate the kind compliment, seriouslypleasedropit.

    Yes, that was my daughter and she meant “classless” in both the ways the term could be construed.

    We do have stimulating conversations around our house. It is a blessing to be able to see them analyze and work out (oftentimes with their own unique takes) the principles we have taught them.

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  5. On July 21 2017, my mamma died.

    Mamma Minnie was 96 years old. She lost a very long fight with dementia, and stage 4-5 chronic kidney disease.

    She was my adopted mother, but also a family member (great Aunt). She and my Dad got me when I was 4 months old.

    The two of them were poor, uneducated, but god-fearing people whom, in 1956, migrated from Alabama and West Virginia to the land of opportunity – Ohio. They left the remnants of racism/bigotry back there, along with the generational sins and dysfunctions of their families of origin to start anew.

    In 1966, my biological mother…(who would be a case study in all the things the red pill manosphere despises) brought me from Alabama to Ohio and dropped into the lap of her Aunt and Uncle and said, “I know you will love this little punk Pedat…he’s better off up here than down there…”. So at 4 months old they adopted me as their own child, and my mother went off doing what she was doing; having more babies by more men. There were 4 of us altogether. All with different Daddies. My biological mother died when she was 23 years old. After the 4th child..her body just couldn’t take it anymore. Never knew her, no memories, no nothing.

    I’m going to make my point, baby sis…

    The environment/culture (as far as my direct family was concerned) in Ohio was different than Alabama. I could tell growing up. It was a blessing and a curse. Having all the questions being asked of me growing up. “Why were you guys separated?” “Why is Pedat in Ohio and the other three in ‘Bama?” Mamma being the type of woman she was – felt it was important for me to still have contact with my half-siblings so she would send me down there for a month during the summers of my youth. I hated it. It was vastly different:

    1. No one went to Church.
    2. No one seemed happy.
    3. Everyone smoked weed and drank.
    4. We all got yelled at ALL the time…for simple shit, like asking to come inside for a drink of water.
    5. I never got hugs.
    6. Never got “good morning”
    7. Where did all these extra kids come from? Who are their parents? How am I related to these people?
    8. If that’s your mama, where is your Daddy? Why is he never around? Why do you live here at Grandma’s house instead of your own house? I wish I could go to someone else’s house…I don’t like sleeping on the floor every summer. I’m hungry, when is breakfast…can I have more than one biscuit and piece of bacon?
    9. It’s hot outside, can I come inside? Why do I get yelled at for not wanting to be outside?
    10. Why is Auntie crying? Why is she always wearing band-aids on her face? The police are on this street alot? Is that my uncle in that police car?

    And as I got older, seeing more and more babies around, finding out that my cousin/uncle is in jail for a while. Being asked for money to help subsidize this cousin or that brother. Then going to funerals for cousins/aunties/nieces and seeing the remnants of track marks on their arms as I paid my last respects at the funeral. And being pissed about why the undertaker couldn’t have had the decency to use some makeup to cover the damn things up.

    Mamma Minnie was the last of the matriarchs living. She was a 92-year-old widow. She outlived those whom she should not have. After Dad died, she wasn’t the same. Then her sisters, and brother and so many nieces and nephews and youngsters from down south for one reason or another – she outlived them, and it wore her down. She was depressed and sad when she died. She worried about all of her people. She prayed a lot. She wished they wouldn’t do the things they did…the fighting, the shooting, the sexual sins, the thefts, the addictions, the obsessions, the downcast spirits of her people.

    I felt a lot of guilt that it was I, and not my three siblings, who was raised up North. Those three are also entrapped in the family dysfunctions and sins and pathologies, and they blamed Mamma Minnie for not helping them escape, and they took it all out on me when I would visit. At 51 years old, I still occasionally get the calls from a drunken or high sibling or cousin – mad at the world – mad at me – mad at God, for not giving them a way of escape.

    Mamma Minnie and her husband did everything they could to keep me nurtured, cared for, encouraged, protected, exposed to godly things and godly people, and even though we were often poor and broke as all get out, they worked their fingers to the bone to keep me clothed and fed. I often wondered why they would still send me down south in summer to endure the shit shows. Was it to teach me something? Was it to keep me connected and exposed to my siblings so no one would accuse them of having me think I was “better” than them? Was it because they just needed a break for a month like normal parents appreciate sometimes? I don’t know, but I hated it. And I hated the backlash.

    What my siblings have yet to realize is that it wasn’t Mamma Minnie who saved me…it was the mercy and plan of The Almighty who did. And I’m still working out my salvation today.

    When I get the calls, I wanna say, “look negro, you’re a grown ass man…handle your business…” but I don’t. I wanna say, “you need to find Christ, get in His grip and stay there…” but I don’t. I just hold the phone, riding out the torrent of projections and accusations and frustrations until I have had enough.

    My siblings are in the sunken place. Like so many people are; like yours. baby sis.

    What can you do?

    Like

  6. I’ve had some of the same experience in small town America–not to the extent Pedat describes, but I do remember my kids really being hindered by the kids at a church where the intellectual life simply wasn’t valued. Moving to a new church helped immensely. Still need to be Dad, but it’s nice to see my kids excited about youth activities because their friends just might actually go somewhere in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a lot of thoughts sparked by your comment, Pedat. It’ll have to wait, though.

    For now I offer you my heartfelt condolences for your loss. Stay encouraged, brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Of my father’s 9 children,, thankfully 6 of us are doing well enough. A few have had struggles, but most got it together. To be sure from a financial/family standpoint, my next oldest brother and I are doing the *best* but it could have been worse.

    My father’s house was one of order and discipline and all of our needs were met growing up. The loss of our mother while were all so young (and my father’s Silent Generation parenting style) meant there were challenges -and even bits of dysfunction- but where we lived we saw so, so much worse.

    Now as we grew up and my siblings started having their own kids (most OOW) the effects of environment are definitely evident and underscores the wisdom my husband exercised when he declared early on that we weren’t raising his kids in that environment.

    They do get the occasional bit of pushback for their so-called “disconnect” (which cracks me up for numerous reasons not the least of which is that they are the only ones NOT running around with weaves, relaxers, or wigs on).

    What can we do? We can be honest yet loving. And pray.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your husband’s vision put your family in an optimal situation.

    More prayer and a better vision for my family is indeed needed.

    It seems I’m on the cusp of being appointed Patriarch. I am not ready.

    At all.

    Like

  10. Pedat, my condolences as well for the loss of your mother. Miss her, and remember she’s walking streets of gold, her mind is right and her feet don’t hurt anymore.

    Elspeth; glad to back up your point. My family is dealing even now with a couple of situations of the aftermath of OOW births, the results of which are good friends of a couple of my daughters. It’s volatile, tough, and I know my shoulders aren’t big enough to carry the load. Glad I’ve got a Savior whose shoulders are.

    Liked by 2 people

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