“I am a baby. I know nothing of hatred, intolerance, racism, sexism, bigotry, indoctrination, homophobia and prejudice. I don’t yet understand things like love, compassion, integrity, tolerance, human decency and truth. For the first and most important formative years of my life all I will know is what you teach me. Choose wisely.” ~Unknown
It always amazes me when you discuss a topic with someone only to have the same thing resurface soon after in your life in another form. In this case, the topics of mixed ethnicities and racism were brought up by Larry M., a recent interview subject. Larry spoke to his family tree containing not only containing African American heritage but Irish, several Native American tribes and a few others. He recalled a conversation with a young girl that referred to herself as a “mutt” because she was mixed ethnicities. The two compared their family tree composition. Larry felt there was more to say regarding the use of the descriptor “mutt” but didn’t have the words at that time.
During our interview he expressed the desire to contact this girl to explain to her his thoughts that she shouldn’t refer to herself with this label, mutt. He felt the blending within one’s family tree resulted as a means to survive, improve and proceed in life. This blending was not something to denigrate but appreciate since it resulted in the family continuing and strengthening. He saw it as a way for the strengths of each ethnicity to have the opportunity to combine into a stronger person/family. Given the advent of DNA testing becoming available to the general public, we discussed how many may be surprised to know what their genetic composition contains. In his opinion, he added, concerns about race are adult learned. As children, we know nothing about a person’s race or races, their family history. The child is only concerned about feeling safe and cared for. They don’t have knowledge that they are considered a “color”. It is what the child is told, taught or observes in the adults around them that results in racism or prejudice.