Sunday, June 30, 2013

Boomer Mom in 1955 - Note to Paula Deen

A Note to Paula Deen 

I lived in Birmingham, Alabama from the time I was born until I was seven with my Mama (grandmother) and my Uncle Billy. My parents were divorced. My mother had my older brother and my father's mother had custody of me. My mother and my brother went to Morocco with my step-father for two of those years, and when they came back they took me to live with them. My step-father was transferred to Malstrom AFB, Montana.

That was a big change for this little Southern girl. The winters were brutal there. We were enrolled in school and I was entering the 2nd grade. The first time we went to church at the base chapel, we came home with new testaments and rosary beads. It seems, mother had mixed up the times and sent us to the Catholic Sunday School. Mother and Daddy Earl were beside themselves, but I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to go back the next Sunday. Mother said that I shouldn't associate with Catholics, because they were strange people and not like us.

During the time with my grandmother,  I hardly ever saw a black person, and no children that I can remember. When I went to school in Montana, it was the first time I remember seeing and meeting people of other races. Mother put me in Brownies so that I could meet more girls to play with. I made friends fast, but there was one little girl that I was fascinated with. Veronica was so cute and sweet and I just loved her.

So, being a girl, I brought her home after school one day. Mother had a funny look on her face when I introduced Veronica. It must have been because Veronica was black. I never noticed. She was sweet, kind, pretty, and had the cutest pigtails. We chatted incessantly like little girls do and had a grand time playing with our paper dolls. 

Veronica's mother called for her to come home. While she was leaving, my stepfather came home. He was polite when I introduced him to Veronica, but he did not smile like he usually did with children. After Veronica and I hugged, she left. I was so happy to have a new friend.

Daddy Earl told me to come over and sit next to him. He told me that Veronica could not come back to our house. I didn't understand why not and told him so. He said that it was because she was black and his people didn't have anything to do with Negros. Since I was 7 yrs old, I didn't know what a Negro was. He explained to me that they weren't the kind of people I would want anyone seeing me be friendly with. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I was heartbroken. Veronica was still my friend and Mother ended up letting her come over sometimes after school, because Daddy Earl didn't get home until after 5 p.m. She didn't come much, but mother let me go to her house some. She was in my class at school and we were Brownies together. We were even in Sunday School together.

Mother and Daddy Earl wanted me to be happy there with my brother too. I think Daddy Earl knew that I was still friends with Veronica, but didn't want to acknowledge it.

Later, when he was assigned to a radar site in England, Mother, Sonny, and I went to live in a little town in Mississippi called Leland. Since I was 9 yrs old, I knew a little more about races then.

Then I met Daddy Earl's nieces and nephews. The schools there were segregated in Leland and, of course, there were no black children in my school. It was 1957 and things were so segregated that there were separate bathrooms. Even water fountains were segregated.

The cousins were awful and called the little black children horrible names when we were walking home from school. Sometimes I would run home crying. It was hard for me to understand.

As I grew up, I learned that I shouldn't associate with Jewish people because they killed Christ. I did not find out Christ was a Jew until later. Mother did not want me to associate with Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc., because her Uncle Roscoe was on the Alabama when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

In high school, in Canton Mississippi, one of my best friends was a Chinese girl and when we were in Columbus Mississippi, my best friends were Beverly Powers (Catholic) and Linda Schlansky (Jewish)

We then moved to Bessemer, Alabama, and during my senior year, our school at Hueytown was desegregated. There were only two black girls, who were freshmen. I felt so sorry for them. People were always saying unkind things about them, and I am sure they were lies, but hateful just the same. I tried to talk to them, but they were so scared. I wanted to hold them and comfort them so much.

I ended up marrying a guy in the Air Force and working for the Air Force for almost 30 years. I can say that I heard slights about people of other races, but I tried to disassociate myself from bigots. I found that it was almost impossible. Some people are so bigoted, like one unfortunate fellow that thought I was a "Dumb Blonde." Calling people names is not the way to Heaven. It is insensitive and mean.

I loved my parents very much, despite their bigotry. I would never do anything to upset them, so when I became divorced in my 40's, I would not date men of other races. Not because I did not want to, but because I was afraid I would get involved or married to someone my parents would not approve of. I am sure they would have told me not to come home if I brought someone who was Black, Catholic, Jewish, Oriental, etc.

They felt the same way about Gays, then my baby brother, Paul turned out to be Gay. Daddy Earl forbid him from coming home for a while. But then when he got ill, he was allowed to come home so they could take care of him.  He was one of the first people in the United States to have HIV and then AIDS. He died in 1989 and I think things were different for the whole family after that.

I have found out that those bigoted people suddenly became different when the black person is their grandchild. Grandchildren are special.

Even now, almost over 50 years later, I don't understand. There are some people that I do not care for, but it has nothing to do with what color they are. It has to do with who they are on the inside. I usually disassociate myself from unkind people. My philosophy is "When there is a choice, choose Kindness."

I love Paula Deen. She cooks like my grandmother, how could she be bad? She did not have the opportunity to travel around the world when she was growing up. She was in the Deep South and I am sure that the "N" word was used a lot when she was growing up. She has such a good heart, I cannot imagine here being hateful or mean to anyone. If she said the word, I can forgive her. We must forgive, as much for the other person as for ourselves.

The media seems to be running our country these days. If they say people are bad, we all seem to believe it. Paula Deen is not bad. She has worked very hard for a long time to get where she is. She came from being a single mom of two boys to a Cooking Star with lots of endorsements from all over. Even when she made the snafu of not telling everyone she had diabetes, we forgave her. Besides, if it was from a deposition that it was discovered she said this heinous word, who broke the confidentiality of that deposition. They should go to jail for contempt.

I know you may not agree with me, but we are all allowed our opinion in this country. As I said in the Facebook comment. "You who are without sin, cast the first stone." I don't think any of us can fulfill that statement. We all make  mistakes, I even forgave my stepfather for his bigotry and his terrible temper. If I can do that, you can forgive Paula Deen. Let us quit bashing her.

Can you imagine how she is feeling? I can. I remember a time in my life when I was so upset, I had to hide to keep my mouth shut. I can only imagine the heartbreak she is going through.

Ladies, she is a Woman Who has Made It. She apologized for the things she said, lets move on. Not enough women are role models, let Paula clean up her act and get back to cooking. Those businesses that are dropping her, have dropped me. I will not be going to any of them or buying their products until they apologize to Paula Deen for trying to ruin her.