Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where Do All the "Isms" Come From?

I am not a young person. Since I had children later in life (and especially since they are quickly approaching their teenage years) I sometimes feel much older than my physical years.

(My great-grandfather, Mclelland Barr, with Sarah Jane Sharps)

My mother grew up in West Virginia, a Southern state, but also one which broke away from the South over the issue of slavery. Mom grew up in a small town, mostly white, and rural, although they owned and lived above the family store. She grew up without a television, though she remembers sitting around the radio to listen to the President's weekly messages. The Internet was not even an idea yet. She did not have many of the advantages that others in more "civilized" areas had as far as food, clothing, and education. She walked the two miles to school each day, as the family had one car, which her father used sparingly. Mom didn't even leave this little Southern town until she turned 18. She said later that she was tired of "everybody knowing everybody else's business."

Yet with all these disadvantages, Mom somehow learned not objectify others. Maybe it was because her parents were teachers, and their parents were teachers, and so on, back many generations. I don't know, but I am grateful. If racism and sexism and all the other "isms" are learned behavior, why didn't she learn them?

My parents moved to California before I was born. I know, I know . . . California is a dirty word to so many here in the South. The land of "fruits and nuts" I've heard it called, by people who haver never been there. And while I'll admit that there is some truth to that, it makes me sad to hear people here in Tennessee make those accusations. It makes me sad that while I am sitting in a cafe among supposedly educated people in a Barnes and Noble in a large city, who have access to the Internet, T.V., and excellent schools, that I hear grumbling about our President (though they don't use that title of respect to refer to the leader of our country and the free world) and those "damn liberals who are ruining our country," or the destruction of our way of life due to "all the damn lazy immigrants." My heart aches when my 12-year-old daughter reveals that her social studies class talked about the disappearance of the middle class, and that most of the other students espoused the idea that this was "a good thing" because it "shows that people who don't work won't get ahead."

I know that part of the reason why I am subjected to these loud conversations taking place at the tables next to me is because their proponents see what is on my computer. They see me working on a TpT product about President Obama, and it offends them. I'm a teacher planning to teach my students some of the facts about their President, and perhaps encourage them to reach for their own dreams, to know that in the United States of America, a democratic country, they need not be limited by the color of their skin or their family's financial position. If asked, these people who are so outraged by my work would probably say they would defend our country and the American dream to their deaths. Then they go on to try to cut down everyone who is not the "right kind" of American.

This is not to say that only people in the South engage in this type of behavior. I have been personally attacked and bullied by others on the other end of the political spectrum, as well. I don't like to talk politics, yet there are others who would seem to want to bring politics into EVERYTHING. One teacher even said on a forum that any parent who didn't agree with her political views "should find another venue" if they didn't want their children taught that teacher's political views while at a public school. What? Her way or the highway, she made it clear.

As I said at the beginning of this topic, I feel so old now, so tired of all the incivility. Don't get me wrong, I think there are still many kind and generous Americans who are capable of allowing others their own freedoms without getting angry and trying to force their opinions on them, but it seems to me that it has become acceptable to bully others into silence in order to get your own way in what should be a national conversation.
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