When I grew up, things were different. Not in the world as a whole, but certainly in my world. Family was everything. Although my mother seemed to be the exception to that rule, my family went out of their way to keep me safe.
And my life wasn’t without its fair share of things that weren’t safe. Here they are, in no particular order:
- a step-dad who was a heroin addict
- a mother who was a meth-addict
- another step-dad who was a meth-addict (after the first one)
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- drive-by shootings
My brothers and my father were always there. Always. And they had their fair share of bad times, as well. Believe me, they weren’t perfect. But they always had my back.
Family was more than just the people related to you. There’s a famous quote, and I don’t remember who said it, but it goes like this:
“Friends are the family you choose for yourself.”
It still is that way, for me. I have chosen many brothers and sisters. I have had a few moms. …. Well… I’ve never had a daddy better than mine, but that isn’t the point. The point is that I have always had a much bigger family than my lineage would imply.
Which leads me to my point. My lineage. My heritage.
I am Hispanic. Specifically, I am Spanish. But I don’t say that anymore. These days I say I am Mexican. Because, truthfully, I am more Mexican than I am Spanish. My father’s mother came straight from Mexico before she settled with my father’s father, who also immigrated from Mexico. Technically, about 2 generations prior, we came from Spain. But that is all semantics.
This “family” dynamic I speak of is the only one I knew until I became an adult. Loving each other and supporting one another unconditionally was the only family relationship that was acceptable. When I grew up, and met the hubs and his family (as well as other “families”), I found that white folks are crazy. I’m sure it is just my perception, but it seems that white families are so much more about selfishness and backstabbing than my family ever could have been.
I have been accused of being racist against white folks. Let me be clear: I am not. What I am intolerant of is sneakiness and greed. I absolutely abhor the way they play nice to each other’s face, only to talk shit about them as soon as they leave the room. The fights, the bickering, the one-ups, the constant feeling that they are “owed” something from their siblings or parents – I don’t understand that.
I grew up around a lot of Mexicans. I grew up around people who didn’t speak english.
In hindsight, I wish I would have listened and learned instead of watching their soap operas (by the way, Amor en Silencio = my favorite soap of all time). Someday I will learn to speak spanish… hopefully sooner than later. 😉 But… I digress.
What I saw from these people was that family was the center of the universe. And all things revolved around them. The men, who weren’t out committing crimes as the media would have you believe these days, were working two jobs (and making far less than their white counterparts) so the matriarch could stay home and raise the kids. The kids weren’t criminals. They were going to school to be educated; to learn so they could take their place in a society that needed a little perspective. They took care of their parents. They took care of their children. They took care of each other. This is a bit of a soapbox of mine. I’d rather categorize myself with a bunch of illegal immigrants and Mexican-Americans who are hard-working and kind and loving, than to group myself with anyone else.
When I grew up, we didn’t get together for holidays and sit around pretending to be stuffy and eat on the “fine china” with the “silver”ware. We sat in the living room, on the floor, on the couch, at the table and we enjoyed each other. We didn’t have a kids table. Holidays are designed for children to see this dynamic modeled. Why relegate them to their own table?
Now, this isn’t about being white, or Mexican, or Indian, or African-American. It’s not about being right. Here’s what I am saying: Damn it! Love each other. Quit standing behind tradition. Quit giving obligatory gifts on holidays, like stale chocolate. Start giving and loving. I will admit that there are Mexican families out there just as screwed up as my husband’s white family. I just don’t know any of them. I don’t want to know any of them. I know too many as it is.
Whenever I hear this song, On A Sunday Afternoon, by Lighter Shade of Brown, I am reminded of a time when things were different. I remember my family, and my extended family. I reminded why I want to spend time WITH people, and not just around people. And yeah… white folks are crazy. I’ll never quit thinking that. My best friends are white. My husband is white. I am half white. (The PC side of me wants to disclaim that I am American… not anything else. But that whole PC thing is a post for a different day). I love them, and I love myself. But when I get the census form and it lists the ethnicities, I’ll always check “Hispanic.” I’m proud of that.
Now… if I could just figure out how to say “white people are crazy” in spanish, my life would be a little more perfect. 😉