General Snobbery
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Tuesday
Apr202010

Question of the Day: Where Would You Be?

Belton Family PhotoIn light of Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height's passing, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine yesterday about what we would be doing if we had been born at the turn of the century, in the early 1900s, rather than now.

More after the jump.

Sometimes we take for granted how much things have changed for us as compared to our parents and grandparents generations, who had to sacrifice so much and in some cases never saw their dreams come true or were compromised because of racism and sexism. My parents are in their 60s and on many ocassions my mother would tell me how she wished she had my laid-back childhood in some respects rather than her hardscrabble own, which involved helping raise her many younger siblings, picking cotton and growing up very poor in the segregated South. And once, when I was very young, I asked my Grandmother, who was born in the 1920s which she preferred, the years of her youth or the life she now had in her then 50s and she, emphatically, said she preferred now. "At least there was air conditioning!" among other things, she said.

It's hard to tell what I would be doing if I'd been born in 1917 instead of 1977. I'd like to believe that because of the history on both sides of my family of black people who were ambitious even in the face of racism, would still hold true for me. But the other reality is, both sides of my family were poor. Very poor, back then. While some relatives on my father's mother's side were slightly better off than others at that time, for the most part, my family was typical of many black families at the turn of the century with children born after the end of slavery -- we were in survival mode. I'd like to think that I would have clawed my way out of Arkansas or Texas and made it to some industrious city in the North to be a writer, but nothing is guaranteed. There's an equally good chance I would have just gotten married at 16 and started a family like my grandmother. There's just no way of knowing what you'd do.

Maybe I'd be an Ida B. Wells, but then maybe I'd just be one of the faceless many just trying to make it day-to-day. I'd like to think I would have pushed for a better life. Many people in my family, including my grandmother's siblings and others, left Arkansas and pursued their dreams by whatever means they could find. In some cases that meant moving to New York to be a seamstress or maid or moving away to join the military. My own mother, apropos of nothing, decided to forgo starting a family early and pushed her way through college, out of the fields and into a better life. Because I know the spirit of these individuals live in me, there's a good chance I wouldn't have stayed put either. Some things are just bigger than you, like the drive to find something more in life than the fields. Maybe I would have picked cotton for a while, but I don't know how long that would have lasted. It didn't really last for a lot of folks in my family.

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Reader Comments (9)

Honestly, i'd probably not have lived a long life...my mouth would have gotten me in trouble. It started pleanty in grade school in the 70's so ican't imagine it would have been much different. In the 70's it got me sent to the principals office (note - asking nuns why their pictures of Jesus don't match the biblical description will not only get you sent to the office, but will also initiate a phone call to your parents), in the 10's, i'd have been beaten to death for not knowing my place.... I was in 3rd grade....

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

Some people think that the way they are now would have allowed them to prevail. I seriously doubt it because at the time black people knew their place and stayed there to protect themselves and their families. There wasn't anything weak about them doing it either. I remember one day my mother said to me that she didn't want me cleaning anyone's homes the way that she did when she was younger. I told her she wouldn't have to worry about that from me.

Today we don't have a place and are free to live our lives, but instead we choose to self-segregate and yet in spite all of the sacrifices our parents, grand parents, great grand parents and their parents had to endure so that we could live a better life, there are many people who have squandered these hard earned sacrifices, insults and deaths for nothing.

The biggest lie ever told to a Black person, African Descendant, people of color or whatever you call yourselves was that they are inferior. Maybe if some people would stop believing in this lie and live the way God has determined they can succeed against any obstacle. I refuse to bring dishonor upon their legacy's by accepting mediocrity and failure as a way of life. I know that the actions of many have caused those true Civil Rights legends and our parents so much unnecessary pain and disbelief by how our community has turned it's back on pursuing excellence.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVonmiwi

I like to believe that I'd somehow make it to Paris and hang out with all the peeps in Montmartre, but realistically I'd probably be a poor coloured domestic with a vindictive employer. Yay for 2010!

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotteZephyr

Since it's so-called 4/20, it's Mexico for me...as long as Pancho Villa ain't acting up against the same folks I'm trying to get away from!

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCDF

I would likely be killed...

song currently stuck in my head: "if i ever lose this heaven" - quincy jones feat. al jarreau, minnie riperton & leon ware

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBaye Kambui

I would probably be someone's mistress or be stuck working some grinding job knowing I was too smart to be working there and married to some dominating frustrated angry black man. If I was middle class I would be part of the DC middle class which interestingly was mixed with varying educational levels because women were not necessarily expected to go to college, but to be wives and mothers.

Interesting question.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbdsista

It's strange there are only six posts on this topic, but countless posts about Mo' Nique. Ignore the relevant, and praise the irrelevant is the catchphrase of our misguided era. Nevertheless, a great post, Snob and a topical comment, Vonmiwi.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterD.A.LW.

@DALW: get out of my head! Epic post, LeSnob.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdevessel

teaching in a segregated school. maybe I would have found a way to an HBCU.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrikyrah
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