RDP Tuesday: STIGMA
It is a little reminder from a single day in my childhood spread out over three or four photo albums that are probably sitting in boxes in attics or basements maybe even closets. With any luck at all the mice and rats found those boxes and made something useful out of the contents.
I suppose I should just jump right into this post.
My Dad was white, my Mom is not and when I was born in the early 60’s nobody was celebrating rainbows and diversity and ‘blended ‘ families.
So against that backdrop let me tell you a little story about a family reunion that we had in the early 70’s.
It was going well, everyone was having fun and I was used to being told by the kids in from both sides of the family that I wasn’t ‘really’ one of them, so it wasn’t a buzz kill when it came up. The fact is, I was to dark for one side and not dark enough for the other.
Think again. I was fine with it because I wasn’t exactly fond of a lot of my relatives. I may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but I was not the dumbest one by a long shot and I had a pretty clear idea who cared for me and who did not.
Well as we were wrapping the day up it was time to take pictures and one of my relatives said it was time for Family pictures- so me and my brother and sister and one of my parents had to stand against the wall while the ” Family” had their reunion pictures taken.
See- they all had the same last name and we didn’t share that name so we got booted out. Ha. Well played, right?
Just before she died my Great Grandmother saw those pictures and she noticed who was not in a few of them.
” Where are you, ” she asked me. ” You should be easy to spot. You have the prettiest face in the bunch. ” She didn’t say it all gooey and lovey dovey. She said it very matter of fact like.
So I told her they only wanted pictures of that side of the Family.
My Great Grandmother was tall- probably one of the tallest people in the family- male or female until my niece came along. She had a wicked tongue in her head and pretty much everyone was scared of her. It’s not like she ever hurt anybody, but you always had the feeling it was best to not test that.
” I see. ” she closed the album and then she stood up from the chair she had been sitting on and she glared down at me. You know those pictures of Eagles swooping down on their prey? Well. At that exact moment I knew how those little animals felt.
My formidable and proper Great Grandmother leaned over and hissed- and I do mean hissed into my face, ” The next time something like that happens- I want you to remember what I am going to say. Are you listening?”
God Help me, I was hanging onto ever single word. I wouldn’t have dared NOT too.
” Fuck them. Fuck their malformed brains and fuck their pictures. Do you understand me? ”
I had no idea what ” fuck ” meant. But that wasn’t the point. I was told to remember what she said and I did.
And guess what.
To this day, when I get marginalized, when I get shuttled to the back of the line because I have the wrong skin color, or I’m not pretty enough, or you know, I just don’t come up to stuff I can hear my Great Grandmother say
” Fuck them. ”
And you know, for some reason it takes the sting of having a stigma that I can’t do a damn thing about sting a little less. And in that brief moment when I can’t feel that sting I have enough time to gather my thoughts and fight back.
That was probably her idea all along.