I am from Miller, Budweiser and Pabst, from the Great Lakes. I am a Midwesterner and have an appreciation of fresh water. I am from tuna fish casserole, baked fish and homemade quiche. I am from a woman who was disowned by her family because she fell in love with someone who didn’t resemble her family. Whose bland food I remember as if I was eating it now and cooking it on my own. Whose kitchen didn’t contain many seasoning options besides salt, pepper and seasoning salt.
I am from the third most segregated metropolitan city in American. I am from the eastside of town, the white side of town, down by the local university, my neighborhood was filled with Vietnam Vets, hippies and university students, staff and professors. I am from this part of town because my mother believed that our neighbors would not be so concerned that my siblings and I didn’t match her complexion. Although we were brought up on the eastside of town, the right side of town, my brother did experience one racial incident that I recall; he was called the N-word by Mr. V, a neighbor five houses down, when he cut through his yard along with several other boys, but they were the right complexion, white. I am from a woman who although usually extremely passive walked to Mr. V’s house, knocked on his door, with her three children in tow and proceed to explain to him that if he didn’t apologize to her son there would be serious consequences! He apologized. I am from the part of town that was comfortable for my mother to live without fear, it wasn’t black, it wasn’t brown, but most people didn’t look like my siblings and me, they favored my mother’s complexion.
I am from my father, who was dark brown like chocolate, who cooked collard greens and black-eyed peas and feed our souls with food and laughter. I am from a man who fell in love with a white woman when it was not acceptable to do so, who was bold enough to marry her and bring her around his friends and family. I am from curly thick hair and light hues of brown, from the Harris and Roberts family, one black the other white. I am from a woman who loved her three children unconditionally but never quite figured out how to manage our thick curly hair.
I am from a functioning dysfunctional family and a family of love and support. I am from a divorced couple. I am from a family where my father and mother gave me the exact same baby doll for Christmas one year, but there was one difference, color. I am from having to make a hard decision about which baby doll to return so I could get another toy instead of having two of the same items. I am from a woman who didn’t get her feelings hurt when I chose to keep the black baby doll; she resembled me more than the other doll. I am from a woman who demanded I be registered in high school as white because she was told the school had meet their quota of black students. I am from a woman who would not allow others to define who or what her brown children were, who was willing to do without, to take care of us, who worked nights, attended university in the daytime and cooked for her children. Bland food but nevertheless she cooked, she did her best.
From the best of both worlds, both black and white and I am unique. I know there isn’t equity in America, because while I am viewed as Black in America, I come from White privilege. I grew up viewing the world through the lens of whiteness, my mother’s view and was taught quickly once I left her house that I can not do or say what she was able to do and say because then I don’t know my place, am angry or uppity. I am from a world that puts labels on people due to variables outside of their control. I am from a household where we were taught our value, I love the skin I am in and know color is a social construct used to justify stratification.
I am from a spiritual family that didn’t always attend church but believed God was everywhere. While we didn’t pray before we ate, we prayed before we laid our heads down at night.
I’m from a family of trailblazers, I am from a woman who married someone of another race in 1962, I am from Milwaukee and I am biracial, I enjoy quiche just as much as I enjoy collard greens and black-eyed peas. From the descendants of German, Welch, English and Africans, from a grandfather who could not read or write but was able to buy a home for his family because of his hard work in a factory, who ended up losing his house when his wife, my grandmother– who could read, died because he was taken advantage of and too proud to ask for help. My other grandfather, on the white side, had no more than a sixth-grade education but was able to rise to the position of Sales Manager of a Copper and Brass company. His spelling wasn’t great, but he was given a secretary to handle all his correspondents. Who although he didn’t have much education, and was the son of a Blacksmith, was able to achieve upper middle-class status based off hard-work and white privilege!
I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the worst places to raise a black male child, one of the most segregated cities, a city where the County Executive recently declared that racism is a public health crisis. My name is Tammy L. Hodo, PhD and this is where I’m from and who I’m.
Thank you goes to George Ella Lyons who provides a great template to complete this poem.
“I am from a world that puts labels on people due to variables outside of their control” possibly the biggest issue with modern American humanity. Yet, you did not allow those labels to deter you and you have achieved much. And, I’ll add, having met your mother, she has a wonderful sense of humor!
Thank you Kathy. My mother is indeed a hoot.