My parents were born and raised in the early part of the 20th century. What was considered OKAY then is being interpreted today as rude, insensitive, and morally wrong. Although my parents and their friends may not have been perfect, I do not believe that they intentionally said or displayed themselves to be inappropriate or hurtful.
Halloween or costume parties was an opportunity to dress up as someone you admired or were intrigued by their character. Think about the era that they were living at the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. In addition to the tenuous world, they were growing up in they among many found solace in movies, music, and a little bit of make-believe. They were influenced by reality as well as the comfort of play acting that helped brighten their days.
If I had not researched the roots of blackface, I would not have known the origin was the whiteface actors were mocking. “The purpose of blackface was mocking… and erasing black culture, turning it into a figment of the white imagination for entertainment,” says Prof Carr. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47125474) My parent’s generation and mine as well saw the performances of actors, singers, and many musicians as entertainment, and only that. Even the precious Mickey Mouse was first portrayed in minstrel form, considering it was 1929, and our culture was different.
Our culture has evolved. However, we must be careful and understand what we may approve of today, tomorrow our children and grandchildren will find fault with and point out the things we did that may keep them from being who they want because our society has a need to find fault! Instead, of accusing, we should make an attempt to understand and become more aware of what is right or wrong? Although I do not believe in the concept, “An eye for an eye,” in early days (before you or me, and even our parents and grandparents) this was an acceptable approach in some cultures. The code of Hammurabi dates back to 1754 BC.
We are all human, and humans are not perfect. We make mistakes by choosing to do something that we may think is OKAY. We use words that in our group are acceptable, but outside of that circle may not be or interpreted in ways they were not meant. Isn’t it time we become more sensitive to the real meanings and not the assumed.
Someone will read this and scream out that I am a bleeding liberal believing we should all be allowed to do and say things in our manner. That is not what I am saying, what I am stressing is why we are so quick to punish people for what may have been acceptable when they were involved in their action. Let us learn from it and understand why our values have changed and stop throwing stones and taking an EYE for an EYE!
I remember when I was about nine years old, I repeated the N-word. I did not do so with malice, but I had heard the word used, and I knew it referred to African Americans, however when I was nine they were referred to as Black People. Tempe was a beautiful soul and African American. My family loved this woman who came to our home once a week to iron and press our clothing, as my mom worked out of the house. I used to love coming home from school and sitting in the basement with her as she lovingly ironed the most perfect creases in my father’s white shirts, and my brother’s slacks. She was an artist in getting each pleat in my skirts to lay appropriately, and her delicate touch with my mother’s clothing was precise. Tempe taught me how to iron (which I still do to this day.)
One afternoon while sitting and watching her perform her craft I called her the N-word, I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember that when my parents came home, I was reprimanded. I was told in no uncertain terms never to use that word again and that I had to apologize to Tempe. My father drove me to her house, and he walked me to the door. I remember when she opened the door her daughter, just a few years younger then I was standing behind her. The look Tempe gave me was sad, and yet her demeanor towards me was accepting. I began to cry as I apologized and told her I was just using a word I heard others use and she explained to me why it was hurtful. She explained she knew in her heart of hearts I did not intend to hurt her, but someone else may not understand if I used that term in their presence. I made a solemn oath to never call another Black person (African American) by that word ever again. We hugged and cried together, and I was stronger for her understanding and the lesson my parent’s taught me.
I would not want that one incident to come back and haunt me or my son’s or any future grandchildren that I may have. What was somewhat acceptable in some homes in the ’50s should not be society’s reason for throwing a stone today!
STOP and THINK before you ASSUME!