By Samantha Wells
Dealing with racism from the public is something that minorities have always dealt with, but dealing with racism within your own family is another, much harder issue to cope with.
So how do you deal? How do you come to terms with the fact that your own family doesn’t accept you? The people that should love you unconditionally, despite who you are, the people who should be your support system, your loved ones, ultimately don’t love you, simply because of the color of your skin. My story has never been one I’ve shared willingly, but today I will.
My father is Native American and Black, while my mother is German. From what I understand, I have a huge family, but I don’t know them personally or for awhile didn’t know they existed. When my mother decided to be with my dad, her parents disowned her. They felt she needed to marry a White, German man, and that if she decided to marry a black man it was something they would not be able to put up with. So instead of getting to know my dad, they cut my parents out of their lives completely.
When I was younger, I could never understand why I wasn’t good enough for my grandparents to want to get to know me; why everyone had grandparents but me. How was I so unlucky? I don’t know anyone from my mother's side, not a single soul. When people would ask me about my family I would have nothing to say, because what is there to say about someone who hates you for something you can’t control? Nothing really.
I used to ask my mom to let me try and talk to them. My mother had a son from another marriage who was fully white. They would call him on holidays occasionally and talk to him, but only him. When I would try to talk to them they would say they couldn’t, and hang up. Over time I got use to the fact that I was never going to be accepted and I eventually gave up.
Holidays have and will always be somewhat hard for me. I always envied people who had huge family gatherings, huge Christmases, huge Thanksgiving dinners, anything really that had to do with family because I never got that. Ever since we moved to South Carolina, farther away from my Dad’s family, things were never the same. After that, I was embarrassed to talk about my holidays because it was always just my mom, my dad, and I. Things for lack of a better word became.. lonely. I started to fall in love with other people’s families who would invite me over for the holidays because it was something I never had, but craved.
I told myself that when I marry someone their family has to be huge and they have to accept all kinds of people. I made a vow to myself that when I do have my own children, they will never know what it’s like to feel hate from their own family. They will feel unconditional love. They’ll have family gatherings with ten uncles, and thirty cousins and one hundred other family members. They will never feel alone. That is a promise I vow to keep to my future self and my family.
Fast forward to now, after twenty-three years of living without half of my family, my mother’s mom has passed away. As a result, my grandfather reached out saying that he would like a chance to get to know me. I was... skeptical to say the least. I guess you could say I became bitter. I definitely wasn’t excited. The way I saw it was that he’s been without me this long what was the point now? I was hurt and to be honest I didn’t much care to get to know him. The way my mother’s face lit up at the thought of getting the chance to know her dad again convinced me to take the chance.
She now has a relationship with her dad again or at least is working on one. Me? I talk to him on occasion. The void in my heart didn’t fill the way my moms probably did. That’s her dad so I expect that the time she has with him now, she’s grateful for. As for me, I hit a point where my friends became more of my family than my actual family was and I’m okay with that. In my eyes, I don’t need or want anyone in my life who didn’t want to be there from the start, especially because I wasn’t white enough.
A lot of lessons can be taken from this experience. Although I’m grateful I finally got to meet a piece of my family tree, my hatred for my grandparents caused me to be less welcoming to my grandfather than I wished. If hatred is the reason this all started, me hating him back would do nothing to ease my pain. So what would?
How do we approach a conversation with our loved ones about how they have hurt us in order to create a path towards forgiving them?
Not everyone will get the chance to meet the family that once rejected them like I did. I wish to one day talk to my grandfather about the issues he had with the color of my skin and the effects it had on me. Whether it be on a smaller scale or just as intensely as mine, this is an issue many mixed children face. I think it’s important for families with mixed children to discuss topics like this. Your family is usually the first group of people to accept and validate you. Without their acceptance it’s hard to create a solid foundation of self-love.
My future kids won’t know a lot of their mothers side, but luckily I’ve found an amazing person who accepts every part of me that they will have in their lives. I will never truly understand how someone, especially your own family, could hate you for the way God created you, the skin color you were meant to be. With the holiday season upon us, this is a perfect time to talk and acknowledge what’s really important. No child should feel like they don’t deserve a Christmas with family because of the color of their skin. So gather around the dinner table this upcoming holiday and let’s talk.