I bristle when someone calls one of my kids a “good girl” or “good boy,” because, inevitably, they’re referring to how they quietly follow the rules. Them being “nice” is usually not questioning authority, not raising any extra noise or inconvenience. It’s them being seen- clean, tidy, in traditional clothes and sex-specific hair, and not heard, unless their little voices are saying something cute that makes the adults comfortable. It certainly isn’t them challenging the status quo, trying to make change. That would be seen as not nice, not good. Don’t bring up anything negative or real in their world, either, because it’s not ‘nice’ to talk truth. Keep it light. Pass the cornbread.
I’m not a kid, but I still have a war in my head over being polite and toeing the line I was taught, and calling out the things that ain’t right and using my voice. I feel like I’m still supposed to be seen and not heard, or that I need to control the things I say so that they’re palatable and comfortable to all.
Again, there’s been a lot of talk about how much to resist racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQ, hate talk from relatives this holiday season. Is it our duty to keep the peace? To be good? But aren’t we in the place we’re in because of people just being polite, quite, good, nice?? Do we just not attend family events, or do we have difficult conversations and be the problem starter? Can we change minds/hearts, or at least control the narrative our kids are exposed to? These relatives were here first, after all, and their ideas are American as apple pie. It was always toeing the company line to destroy lives- of Native Americans, Africans, then African Americans, and more.
Let’s be frank. We white people almost all have relatives who are quiet little white supremacists. No hoods or propaganda up on the walls of the family house, because everyone knows it’s….tacky to be caught being racist…but definitely they’ve concluded, and subsequently taught us, their children, that white people have it all figured out and that’s why we’re on top. Also, people with money are on top of society because they’re better. We’re better. That’s another lesson we received subtly, but persistently.
If we’ve learned to question these findings, to look closer at the dynamics of our society, then to back up our view to the whole big international, historical picture and see the stain that covers everything…we better not share our findings over gravy. These conclusions are offensive, or at least, naive. These “opinions” or “politics” we have are different than the findings of our elders, which are unquestionable, absolute truths.
So. Since our white supremacist relatives were their first, and their bogus ideas are what founded our families, it IS rather rude to upset the apple cart with your new-fangled ideas that all people deserve respect and a fair shot? Is it ‘just politics’ and fiercely impolite to bring up at the table? If you do discuss it, don’t dare get heated, because your language, tone, and body language will all be considered dramatic and hostile. Their findings about wealth, race, sex, sexuality, religion, immigration, are all delivered in calm, beige sweatered, reasonable, universal truthy sort of ways. Non-threatening, no opinion attached, just the way it is. They didn’t invent these truths, they’re just honoring them. Why would you try to change things? Just be good. Don’t be radical, it’s unflattering.
I’m angry. I don’t want this to be the way it is. I don’t want it in my home, at my table, in my community, or country, or world. I don’t want my kids to live it. I don’t want this intolerance, bigotry, and cruelty, the disparity between people’s lives, opportunities, and situations. Being an American is a wholly different experience for different people, depending on their features, their family, their faith, their funds. It’s bullshit.
I want to be brave to call it when I see it, and to teach my kids to do the same. Obviously not just at the dinner table, although that’s excellent practice. I don’t want to be “nice” or “good” and I don’t want my kids to be, either, if it means swallowing truths that aren’t right or real.