A couple of days ago, somebody shared a post about the Virginia mother who allowed her son to wear a KKK outfit for Halloween. I made a comment about raising another generation of racists and said "Bad parenting!" Someone apparently came along and asked, my husband reported, "And what are you raising? If anything."
I think I have written before about this notion that if you aren't a parent, you know nothing. I am going to come right out and say that anyone who believes that non-parents do not know anything about being a parent has a tiny, closed mind. I might also mention that the question is rude, and had I found the post to reply, I would have said "Nonayabiz, but I am raising hell, hopefully some awareness and if possible some consciousness."
I had parents. Both of them had good parenting skills, and bad parenting skills, and some really excellent parenting skills. They made mistakes, as all parents do. As a child, I had very different opinions about which skills were the good ones than I have as an adult! However, it's a full time job, along with their other jobs, and most of their mistakes were from being stretched for time or energy. Only a very few were from passing on bad skills they learned from their parents or social norms. Very fortunately for me, some of their biggest poorer skills were remedied by their friends, teachers of mine, my Momma Della, friends of mine, and therapy.
I babysat as a teen. I tutored kids. I taught college. My friends had children. I taught middle skill and high school. I was a Big Sister. I read parenting books when I was pregnant. The fact I miscarried does not mean I didn't learn anything from the books, I have watched friends go through divorce and the loss of a child through death. An observant person learns a lot in life. A reflective person with analytical skills can see things a parent often cannot or will not.
Here is the real hard truth some parents never learn: a child is not your possession to be shaped in every detail into a little you. Really good parents encourage the child to discover the who inside that God put on earth, even if it is not who you wanted your child to be in your idealized vision.
Here's the second hard truth. I mostly learned this from being a child, so listen up. The entire society has to live with your child. Your child will do better in life if it can adapt to other people he or she encounters while holding on to a sense of what is wanted from them by others, and a strong sense of identity.
This world is not a "whites only" world. For most of the US, it is not a whites only society. Your son has to make his way through the world as it is. If you bring him up to accept racism, he will have a harder time coping with the world and the people in it.
The mother defended her son's choice by saying it was "kind of a family tradition" and that she didn't see anything wrong with the KKK. She also said she had warned her son some people would say bad things about him. No, but I have some bad things to say about her. She needs to realize this world is increasingly going to be non-white. Trying to live in a world where white folks do not hold all the power, and he cannot fling his KKK traditions around willy-nilly with impunity. There will be social and economic repercussions for her son that will be harder to deal with than people saying bad things about him. There will be girls who will not date him. Jobs for which he will not qualify, others from which he will get himself fired. There will be homes in which he is not welcome, although he is a neighbor. There will be legal consequences, perhaps even jail.
A child's identity is not the color of his or her skin. It is the collection of passions, interests, inherent skills, talents and intelligence with which your child is born. A good parent does not instill beliefs into their child which will hinder the unfolding of a rich, productive life for that child. Instilling racism will lead the child to resentments, prejudicial blindnesses based on the color of someone else's skin, barriers that would not exist socially or professionally without that racism, and frustrations from learning that the rest of the world does agree with, hold, nor find acceptable that racism.
Unfortunately, it is probably too late for that little boy. A KKK costume is simply not acceptable in today's society. Had he come to my door on Halloween dressed that way, he would have gotten a lecture on the history of the KKK and no candy. I do not reward hatefulness.
I would like to apologize to you for the inconvenience you suffered when you ran in to vote on your way to work yesterday. This is the first election since the new ID laws went into effect. The forms and how to fill them out changed as a result of that new law. I personally have been serving as an election clerk for almost 20 years. The young woman next to me has at least one election under her belt, because we clerked together in 2012. She may have more than that, but I have no personal knowledge of her prior history.
I stayed up all night the night before the election making sure I understood how to process voters so that nobody would be denied their right to vote, and so we make it easier for your vote to be counted in the next election. The clerk that was processing you clearly did not the shortcut I showed her. Had she proceeded as she was, you would have spent another minute or two filling out a form before you got to vote.
In addition to my experience, I have SLE and have been coping for a week with serous pain on my right side from from my ankylosing spondilytis, without pain killers. I do not like to take addictive drugs unless I can immediately go to sleep, and I cannot take aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. because I have depressed platelet counts, and those drugs eat platelets. I hope I managed to smile and greet you cordially. I know I managed not to engage in your frantic hurried rudeness, or I would have taken time to ask who what gives you the right to be rude to those trying to politely help you when they had nothing to do with the fact you did not allow yourself enough time for voting. I know you didn't have to stand in line at the polling place. I also know you didn't have to wait for a voting machine.
I sympathize with trying to vote and get to work on time. I used to have a high-pressure job before the SLE, which you may know as lupus, derailed my life. I clerk in elections for two reasons. The first is so that there WILL BE SOMEONE TO PROCESS VOTERS, and I have the time and experience to do the job. The second is that because I do not have my career any more, I really need the under $100 pay from the 14 hour day. I do not need the verbal abuse of people in a hurry.
My precinct judge was amused by your comment that she had really scraped the bottom of the barrel, because she had hand picked us all because we worked so well together and efficiently and harmoniously the last time a year ago. My husband, who was working the JBC machine was less amused to hear you describe me as the "bottom of the barrel." He is so polite that he repressed his anger and did not say anything to you. He had also been up all night preparing. He loves me, admires my spirit in the face of my disease and knows your evaluation was incorrect He knows the intelligence level and educational achievements of both myself and the young woman next to me.
I also apologize for my voice carrying while you were trying to figure out the propositions. They are complicated. I suggest that before the next election, you contact the Leagues of Women Voters and or the Houston Chronicle, or their websites, and study the propositions at your leisure and decide on your vote. My husband and I did that a week before the election and then early voted, so that we could help you vote. We were in and out in two minutes flat, even with my wheelchair to get through the doors. I suggest this because it will also help you get in and out in a hurry. You should know that you can bring in a set of personal notes, or campaign materials as long as you do not display them to other voters or use the to campaign for a candidate or issue inside the polling place. Next time perhaps you will choose to vote early, and vote early in the early voting period. Except for the last day of early voting, it is generally fast. The county clerk's office can tell you when and where and the hours at the location you recognize to be nearest your home or office or en route.
I have spent decades trying to modulate my voice, but I just have one of those voices. I think I got it from my Dad. He, too, could walk into a space like a crowded auditorium full of people talking and say "Hey!" and everybody in the place would shut up. I try, I really do, but when I am concentrating on what I'm doing, or excited about a topic, I forget to whisper. It's just what I was born with, and 60 years have not cured it. I do apologize if my voice was more distracting than your internal voice telling you to hurry to get to work.
You were the only voter who complained about anything all day long, from 7 am until 7 pm. I am sorry that you arrived frazzled and unprepared to vote. You were the only unpleasant voter we encountered all day. I apologize for not meeting your ideals; I probably won't the next time either. I am proud that none of us allowed your rudeness and your rash judgments to ruin our days.
For your information, I taught college business statistics and am a published applied statistician. I read six languages and speak a bit of all of them. I understand them well enough to listen to movies in those languages without needing the subtitles. My colleague at the table is a nurse's assistant, speaks two languages fluently, and helps run her family business. She is headed for nursing school, and was studying her materials for the state boards between voters. All of us have lives, from which we take some time to be present at the polls so you can vote.
I am sorry that the other 154 voters had better experiences than you did. Even the guy who had ordered a mail ballot and not received it and was on his way out of town and ended up going home to see if it had arrived, and returning to the polling place because it had not, and waited through a call to the County clerk to see if they had received it, and ended up casting a provisional ballot that he knew might not get counted thanked us for the doing the job by the rules and was pleasant to us. The only voter who approached your level of criticism was a man who accidentally pushed the cast ballot button before completing his ballot and only got to vote in one race was not nearly as upset as you were, even when there was nothing we could do.
My husband and I left at about 8 pm, exhausted and laughing at being the bottom of the barrel. I am sorry we were inspired to make fun of you.
I offer this to be helpful to voters everywhere. Come prepared. In fact, prepare NOW to be sure you are registered and properly identified so that you can vote next November in the important races in your state. Make sure your photo ID is not expired and that the name matches your voter registration name format. Make sure you know the and have the proper identification documents in your state. Study the issues, the candidates, and any amendments or propositions that will be on the ballot where you vote. Make a list of who and what you want to for or against. Order your mail ballot, if you want to vote by mail in plenty of time to get it, complete it and get it back in time. If you cannot mail it back in time, bring it to the polls, so we can cancel the mail ballot and allow you to vote. Know what you have to do to get your provisional ballot counted, or ask us. Allow yourself plenty of time, and if you CANNOT, please do not take it out on the people working the polls. Your problems really are not our fault.