Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Victim of an "ism"

You know, I am really getting tired of everything being called "racist". Yesterday was the final straw for me when I read that some teacher decided that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist. Why? Because some children don't eat (or have it at home) bread but rather pitas, tortillas, etc. So those poor children are feel left out, she says. Come on!

When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, there was not a single ethnic group that didn't have an ugly name. For example, Italians were "spics", Asians (didn't really matter where they were from) were "slant eyes", Polish folks were "Pollacks" (probably spelled wrong) and so on. My ethnic background is Scottish, Irish and Jewish. If you are a history buff at all, you would know that centuries ago, England tried to completely wipe out the Scots particularly the Highlanders who were considered savages. They almost managed to do it too if not for the pure stubbornness and pride of the Scots. Then there was the ongoing battle for Ireland. I don't recall what the Irish were called when they came to America but it wasn't kind; it was offensive. And we all know that for the last 5000 (not sure of that exact number) years, antisemitism has flourished to this very day. The Russians were called "ruskies" (spelled wrong I think), the Chinese "chinks", and on and on.

No, none of this was nice and I am not defending it. I remember as a high school senior, I wore and Star of David necklace that my great-grandmother had given me. She was orthodox Jewish, had a kosher kitchen and took her religion very seriously. Her son, my great-uncle, married a Roman Catholic but to honor his mother, he would serve a Sabbath dinner on Friday night once in a while. I really had no idea of the significance of the necklace until one of my teachers asked me, "You're not Jewish, are you?" It was like "you're not carrying the plague, are you?" I was so taken aback and ticked off that I said yes I was. That was a lie but I was angry.

That year when we lived in an old Polish neighborhood, we received hate mail because my brother was going to preschool at a Jewish Community Center. I am telling you this because I do know what it's like to be at the end of a slur or, as I call it, an "ism". My mother told me to ignore it. All the adults in my family told me that it didn't matter what others said about me, it was what I thought of myself that mattered.

I don't and have never liked humor at the expense of someone else. Making fun of anyone is not funny to me. My kids know that and say that I am "sensitive". I think it is unkind and if a person can't think of something funny to say that isn't at the expense of someone else, then that person isn't funny. But, this business of being offended at anything and everything is only causing division now. When someone would tease me or make a joke about me, it was my own insecurity and my own lack of worth that would make it personal to me. No one, and I mean no one, MADE me cry or made me angry or made me "offended". I CHOSE to react that way.

As I have said in this blog several times, being offended is a choice one makes. I wouldn't purposely hurt anyone's feelings but I have still said and done things that were hurtful. I don't assume when I walk out my door that because of my heritage, my religion or the color of my skin that "people" are going to offend me because of it. Yes, I am white and I am also tired of hearing about my white privilege and that it is in my DNA to be racist. That is a lie. The way I understood all that prejudice I saw when I lived in the South (Jim Crow days) and the subtle slurs and prejudice I saw in the North, those people were insecure about themselves, had a poor self esteem and could only feel better about themselves by putting others down, particularly those who "talked funny" (their words), who had darker skin than they did or who had different customs than theirs.

Still, being offended is a choice you make. Truly, I don't think most people "hate" any one group more than another. Our food choices, our clothing choices, our job choices, etc. are not statements of racism - it is just who we are. If you eat something I would never eat, that is your prerogative. I am not going to tell you that you can't eat it nor should you force me to eat something I don't like, right?

The point here is that we have all been subject to some type of prejudice. How we react to it is what we own. Eleanor Roosevelt said something very wise once. She said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." She was right. Rather feeling offended, I am going to choose not to be. I am not going to let others run my emotions and, being offended is an emotion and it is a choice you make. Let us look for ways to be united, to be friends, to be kind and caring neighbors rather than trying to decided that what others do or say is to offend us. I want to be the champion of my own feelings and I am the only one who can do that.

Enough of the division and "isms". Stop CHOOSING to be OFFENDED!!

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