Corrosion by Hate

This sad and true story really resonated with me and got me to thinking about my own experience with racism, and the effect broader bigotry has in my life.

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Recently a friend on Twitter posted a wrenching note about a friend who had been excommunicated from her birth family because of who she had married. They disowned her, not because she married another woman, but because her chosen spouse is a black woman. My suspicion is that if she had chosen a black man, the result would have been the same. The issue is racism, not simply inequality.

I am, sadly, familiar with racism and it’s insidious, corrosive effect on a person’s sense of self-worth. As the child of a white woman and a Hispanic man growing up in an insular Rocky Mountain town in Wyoming, my family dealt with a low-grade racism as the ‘token’ Hispanics in a white middle-class neighborhood. We were always being reminded and made aware in myriad ways that we were second, less-than, in the eyes of the majority population surrounding us.

We also experienced a few very frightening and violent instances of overt, hate-mongering racism. In fact, my family moved from the South to the relative safety of the West because of threats on my father’s life for his presumption, as a “damned spic”, at marrying a white girl. Having faced angry mobs and hate-fueled individuals alike on several occasions, my dark-skinned father and brothers were always watchful of their surroundings and taught me at an early age to do the same.

But through it all, the six of us had each other. Never once was I afraid that my family would splinter over race. When my very dark-skinned brother married a truly white-skinned, red-headed Irish girl and her parents disowned her for it, my family welcomed her as our own, never looking back and never questioning that she belonged among us despite her ethnicity.

That open-hearted acceptance in the midst of exclusionary culture is commendable. I’m proud that my family has proven that racism is not among our failings.

That safety, solidity, reliability of the forever-bond of family has formed the foundation of my world view since infancy. Losing it would crush me. Clearly that surety was shattered for my friend’s friend. What a gut-wrenching tragedy.

Again, I count my blessings daily that racism is not a feature in my family life. But what about bigotry? Is it possible to be bigoted and not racist? Absolutely.

Racism is a specific form of bigotry, focused on the belief in the superiority of one race over others. Whereas bigotry is a more general term covering the persistent, often irrational, belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions or values (regardless of topic) over another’s or even all others’. So all racists are bigots, but not all bigots are racist.

Racism, all types of bigotry really, is corrosive to self-worth and family cohesion and societal bonds. This hate (because that is what racism and bigotry are, at bottom) will slowly eat away at the fabric holding any family together–the bonds of love and respect each member has for her fellows.

I’m afraid of the corrosion of hate. Afraid of its affect on my family (both blood and chosen), as well as its affect on our culture (whether local, national or global).

Because hate can be disguised to look and feel very much like tough love, selfless enforcement of moral strictures, or even ethical responsibility, people can convince themselves that practicing hate is actually doing the right thing.

This insidious infiltration of moral, cultural, political, even regulatory environments is the nightmare every minority population struggles against. At a macro level, we see the fight and, thankfully, we can see some significant strides being made toward equality. Twelve states in the US now have legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions, to name only one example of progress. Activist groups and individuals all over the world are making a difference for equality every day. For this I’m thankful.

But on a micro-level, a selfish level specific to my own life, the corrosion that hate brings is manifesting in ways I never expected, though maybe I should have. The hate I fear to face from my family and close friends is bigotry in the form of homophobia. It is corroding my confidence in myself, in my family’s steadfast bond of inclusion, in my friends’ acceptance of me as a person, in my employe r’s commitment to equality.

My fear and reluctance to come out of the closet is rooted in this corrosive hate. Sure, some of that fear is simply irrational. I admit that. But not all of it. The break-down of bonds between individuals that bigotry against homosexuality causes is all too real.

That uncertainty that leads to trepidation, hesitation is the rust, the corrosion that is caused by exposure to hate.

As with so many of my recent posts, I don’t have a nice, neat resolution to tie it all up in a bow. This is where I’m at mentally and emotionally: rusting at the joints from fear of bigoted hatred. But I’m not stagnant. Though I fear, I stubbornly refuse to quit. I’m making plans to move forward in my journey. My progress may be slowed by hate’s rust, but it’s not stopped. I’m learning to be my own solvent and sealer to rid the rust…just call me WD-40. 😉

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6 comments so far

  1. Femmi on

    So many words I want to write.

    How I long to stand up against the bullshit for the little s4s, and how I wish I could reassure you that your fears are unfounded. I know that isn’t the truth and it makes me heartsore that we live in a world where hatred is so pervasive in so many different forms. It makes me want to cry!

    • Searching4Self2013 on

      Oh, darlin’, the fact that you are a fighter against hate is already a huge win, a gift to the world. My mild brushes with hate pale in comparison to the hate that has marred your country. I’m honored that you include my small story in your outrage and struggle against this infection. I’m heartsore at times over it, as well. But far more effective than our tears (which are natural), is the living and loving hate-free that we do every day. I firmly believe that when good people live the change they wish to see, the universe responds. Thank you, Femmi, for choosing love over hate. And thanks for standing up for little S4S in spirit. 🙂

  2. FemOutLoud on

    Just read this again … and thought I’d leave you a *hug*, at least, as you find your own path through what is sometimes a lovely forest, and sometimes a dense jungle.

    • Searching4Self2013 on

      Thanks, friend! Hugs are always welcome. And you’re right, it does sometimes feel like the jungle is closing in. But with the support of friends & the community, I’m confident it will increasingly be the lovely forest.

  3. […] Corrosion by Hate (suddenawareness.wordpress.com) […]


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