I am looking at the texts that have been assigned to my son for his History class at college and on the surface, I am a bit disturbed by assignments of
- The Slave Community
by John Balssingame and
- The Puritan Family
by Edward S Morgan. I am not so disturbed by the contents of the books, I’m sure they are very fine reads about important topics, as much as I am disturbed by the selection of texts to define to students who they are. The importance of a college education has been so marketed in the U.S., that we are terrified to think our children might not have one, so we pack our children off to these institutions, and because the children are now at least legally “adults”, we are not allowed to monitor what their brains are being fed. So our institutions of higher learning have become breeding grounds for indoctrinating people into a way of thinking. (Did someone just say, “Them are fightin’ words”?)
Please don’t stop reading now and write me off as a racist. I don’t deny the despicable treatment that was incurred by Africans brought to this country and sold as slaves. Even after the emancipation following the civil war, it took a hundred years in this country to realize that people with a darker skin were not being treated equally with those of a lighter skin. Even today, incidents of bigotry often receive top billing in many media channels. I don’t deny anyone their oppression, in fact, I can identify with it more easily than deny it.
You see, the history in my family (at least on one side) goes back to a little German settlement in Russia. The Russian Czar had married a German princess who was lonely for her people. So out of the kindness of his heart, the Russian Czar set aside land and invited German farmers to come settle there. My ancestors, among many others, went and became Russian sharecroppers on land that could hardly produce anything. What it did produce mostly went to pay taxes to support the Czar’s lifestyle. As Marxism began to take a foothold, the ruling party conceived this to be a German threat, so my great grandparents escaped, stopping first in America before proceeding on to Brazil. My grandmother spoke fluent German, Portuguese and English. I loved her so much that in her final years, I did not even realize that diabetes had stolen her sight. I was eight when she died.
My grandmother’s life resembled more stereotypical black than white. Her family moved back to America and rumor has it that she met my grandfather on the ship. She married at 16 and had 16 kids, half of which either died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. When my father was 14, his father abandoned the family. Harmonywise, it was not a great loss as he was very abusive anyway, but economically it shifted responsibilities, and my father carried three paper routes to try to help make ends meet at home.
So I guess I’m a little sensitive when a political faction, be it left or right, wants to define a group of people in a certain way. After all, isn’t that the definition of prejudice? Yet, certain people look at me or my kids and all they see is privileged white. I don’t get it.