Tuesday, September 11, 2007

proof that people change

Yesterday’s post on the post card from PostSecret reminded me of something that I’ve always been ashamed to talk about. But after reading some emails from people about the issue raised in the post card, I feel the need to come clean.

When I first started dating Jesse, I was in denial that things would eventually get serious. It’s not that I didn’t want them to. It’s just that I couldn’t believe my luck that I had found such a great guy. I kept waiting for someone to come wake me from this dream. But no one ever woke me up. Which meant two things—one, this was actually real and, two, it was time to tell the family.

The first person I told was my brother (whom I used to be close to). I called him up one night and said, “So, I’m like actually seriously dating someone.” He replied, “Oh yeah? Who?” I answered, “A friend of a friend. He’s smart and funny and sweet. And he works in IT.” My brother asked, “So what is he?” A human? Male? I asked, “What do you mean? His ethnicity?” My brother replied, “Yes, that’s what I meant.” Not thinking it would be a big deal, I said, “Well, he’s black.” My brother went from non-chalant to angry in a heartbeat. His response: “Oh no. You’re not dating a black guy. I don’t approve.”

Ummm...ok. I wasn’t asking for my brother’s approval. AND considering his wife is tactless and carries around the largest amount of baggage (the 4 kids from a previous marriage and the crazy ex-husband), my brother is not in the place to judge. I was floored by his reaction.

I knew that telling my mom wasn’t going to be easy. I knew she wouldn’t approve of my relationship with Jesse because she wouldn’t want me to get serious with someone and end up staying on the East Coast forever. So I told her. And even though I personally don’t believe this is relevant, I also told her that Jesse is black (well, she asked and it’s not like I was going to lie to her). She went ballistic too. I was incredibly disappointed in my family.

Total aside: This may not be relevant, but I told my sister too. Her reaction was actually much more pleasant. She was just happy that I had found someone who makes me happy.

Considering how incredibly liberal I am, I couldn’t understand why my mom and brother had reacted that way. After all, I grew up thinking nothing of a person’s skin color. I believed that it had no bearing on their character. After all, as a Mexican living in the OC, I had experienced my fair share of racism. As a little girl, I remember a white older man yelling at my mom at the grocery store. He used all sorts of derogatory words that I prefer not to repeat. My mom stood there and took it all in. It was the first time I had seen her take a passive role (my mom is usually a fighter, which is something we have in common). Rather than defend herself, she stayed quiet. I watched as other white folks walked on past us, staring at my mom, doing nothing for her as this man berated her.

So, why was he so upset? Apparently, my mom had unknowingly beaten him to a parking spot.

I would think, that being on the receiving end of racism, that my mom (of all people) would have compassion for those who could share similar experiences. After all, why would we (as minorities) perpetuate the same kind of hate that we receive on a regular basis? Why would we stoop to the same level as those who are narrow-minded? What is there to gain from behaving that way?

It disturbed me that my family thought so little of a person they hadn’t even met. My mom assumed that he fit the black stereotype—a thug, a drop out, a drug dealer. She assumed that I could do better and that Jesse was lucky to be with me. But how can you judge someone you don’t even know?

Eventually, my mother warmed up to the idea of Jesse being a nice, regular guy (if anything, I’m the crazy one in the relationship). When Jesse met my family for the first time, my brother and mom welcomed him with open arms. Jesse is nothing like they assumed he was. He’s geeky and sensitive and silly. And my mother has definitely come to accept Jesse as part of the family.

The best part of all this was that Jesse took it all in stride. Right before he met my family, I asked him if he was nervous. He replied, “Nope. All I can do is be myself.” And he was. And my family loves him for it.


sunchaser said...

Jesse sounds like a real catch to me :)

lizzie said...

yup. he's a keeper!

honeykbee said...

Are you implying that there's something amiss about my thug, drop out, drug dealing white boyfriend?