My White Brother in Law*

Oh to be a fly on THAT wall.  The  black (man) fiancee  is coming to dinner  and it’s not Sidney Poitier.  I’m sure there where quite a few questions from the Lodi family.

Black People in Lodi?

Marrying someone out of my race, wasn’t a total shock from my side of the family, my life was much different then those of my family.   I was born and raised in the Bay Area and  my  friends came in nearly every hue.  But it was still a white girl and many of the female members of my family weren’t  happy with me.

Lodi, Cailfornia, home of the Tokay Grape is an hour from Sacramento and two hours from San Francisco.  Today ,its African American population is point something.    If you find a car filled with black people in the center of town it simply means they’re hopelessly lost.

So I imagined  it had to be quite a shock when my girlfriend  announced she was marrying a black man from San Francisco.   In my warped mine, I saw my future inlaws walking in circles in the living room  saying “where did we go wrong”  “you should have never taken her to Stockton”  have you ever met a black man? no…. you? no…….

I teased my girlfriend and said, I was going to wear a “Black Power ” tee shirt.  One look at her told me, to table any antics this visit.

You can almost always tell when a person doesn’t have  any or limited association outside their race.   I clearly remember the first white person who visited our home, I was 8 or 9,  my mother’s  tone and mannerisms completely changed. it was like ” how now brown cow”  I thought it was hysterical ………    every time she spoke I howled,   I almost died that night!  Once the door closed, I wanted  to scream ” white lady please take me with you”

My wife* and I  have many things in common, we are the babies and our siblings are much older,  her brother is 14 years older and my brother is 16 years older.   A lifetime.

When my wife and I were born segregation was ending.   She was raised in Lodi, where everyone she came in contact with was white, that changed in College.    I have never lived in a mono world.  Through the years, I have been in many organizations where I was the only person of color and while its something your aware of  but its not really an issue.    Your prepared for a certain amount of ignorance.  I find most questions aren’t mean spirited as lot of people genuinely don’t know any better.

This is especially true for people who have limited contact with people who don’t look like them.   Those people are often preoccupied with how to be. How to act.   Like my mother, who in the presence of a white women thought she need to speak like a white woman.

I find people overly concerned of reactions and saying the right thing.  The reality is, people misspeak and  there will be misunderstandings, the same misunderstandings we make with everyone else.   A trained ear often knows the difference and those errors can be repaired.

In 2012, my brother doesn’t have non black friends.  In 2012, my brother in law’s friends are white.

In our initial meeting, he went down the list of all of his favorite “Colored” singers and dancers.  He told me  about the nicest colored gal he met at a Newberry’s (how old are you?) .   I learned he didn’t like Mexicans and that his mother didn’t like Filipino’s

 Our wedding had to be a shocker-My best man was Filipino and there where quite a few gays, lesbians and dare I say it-Mexicans

And while he loves the coloreds, he hated KGO’s late night talk show host  Ray Taliaferro who was a nigger….just a nigger.   I didn’t tell him I was fan of  the talk show host.       I was in my twenties and very outspoken and  I think if he were anyone but my brother in law, I would have told him off.

As the years went by , I  learned he wasn’t evil, he simply grew up in an time and environment where that was and is the norm.  Somewhere in a corner of California, some one is calling a black man nigger, forming conclusions based on rumor and stereotypes.   Somewhere in Manhattan,a black person or other person of color is doing the exact same thing.

In their circles, they don’t view themselves as racists.  In their circles nearly every one uses a form of slang to describe another race.   I hear it in corners of  my family  where there are several  interracial  marriages .

I understand him and others like him .  In their circles, there  isn’t need for  a filter  and the words they speak is of their truth and that truth is often based on exposure.   The world he and my brother was born into discouraged  interracial friendships, in many states it was against the law.

Is my brother in law  a racist?

I don’t believe he is.    Like my brother, you can’t simply erase seven decades of a  particular mind set.  My children and their friends views on homosexuality is much more liberal then people in my age group.

After three decades  he still  makes me and other family members  cringe in public.    Oh’ that Mexican gal , or that colored man (yes in 2012) you know those queers.   But I know his heart.

Because of my marriage to his sister, I have a different and  personal perspective on white people and he and his mother have a different view of Blacks, Gay’s, Filipinos and even Mexicans .  Today, they would stand in front of a bus for me as I would for them.

His sister and I divorced many years ago.   She is my dearest friend.  The marriage ended, but the love within the families remain.   I still I refer to him as my brother in law. ( Ex is too confusin).  His mother is still mom.

I have reached a place in my life where I accept things as they are and I will love him until the end of time, just as he is…..