Who Am I — Who Are We in the Eyes of Others

I know that I might get burned — in a number of ways — by letting this out in the open here, but here goes: My great grandmother was not a “white” person; rather, she was what her peers considered a “person of color” although she hardly really stood out of the crowd. She was of the Roma people — the most widespread European indigenous people AFAIK.

I was reminded of that, when I read the New York Times (free registration) article that this quote comes from:

The evidence indicates that Southern white men of the 18th and 19th centuries were more used to sleeping with black women than white men today in all regions of the country; despite the popular notion that we’re living in a brand new age of interracial mixing. Some of those planters really were living like polygamous patriarchs of old with wives and concubines and bunches of kids. That’s the truth of early American history.

I want to state quite clearly, that I don’t think that she had to endure the kind of indignities in late 19th-century Finland as the American slaves had to before the Civil War; and after it, too. I guess it was more like the end of Jim Crow era, when racism, though institutionalized, was not quite what it was during times of slavery — in a way. Except of course the lynchings. That the lynchings were as common as they were as late as the 1950s has me mystified. What I mean is that after WWII many other vestiges of provincial chauvinism were eroding fast.

They were nomadic people, who did not have houses and homes — even the sharecroppers had homes of sort, but not them. They did not always see eye to eye with the majority on questions of religion and morality (their morality was often higher). Quite often they were forced into situations where there was no honorable outcome. That means that women had to live without having marriage laws of the land to protect them (they were responsible for the little ones, as always). The landowners who sired children with them seldom took much interest — tainted as they were by virtue of being of “another race”.

To come back to the quote above, I think it’s a prime representative of a widely accepted social double standard. Some old people have told me that “in the good old days” people wouldn’t be living in sin (unmarried couples are still not as frequent as common as they were a hundred years ago — relative to the number of married couples) or even having sex before marriage.

Well, I have done genealogy for myself and plenty of others, and out of every set of grandparents (that means four people, unless some were results of incestuous relationships) of people who are among the living and breathing as of now, at least one was born out of wedlock. This is people, who were born between about 1870 to 1940. My demographics may be a little off — no scientific sampling here.

The social double standard is in the fact that everyone basically knew what was happening, but they would not be talking about it (again, if we don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist). In fact, most would vehemently deny it. Much like today’s parents, when it comes to questions about their kids doing drugs. Even if they full well knew they were doing drugs, or at least suspected, they would dismiss any suggestion to that effect quite adamantly.

So why am I “muddying the waters”/muckracking here? Let’s start with the fact that I grew up in an environment, where I learned to value honesty in values very much. On the other hand, I learned to fib, and feel very bad about it at the same time. That feeling bad about self was nothing compared to what followed truth-telling in my situation. Ever since I have been acutely conscious of any inconsistency between what I was told, and what was true. At the same time, I continued fibbing. It resulted in a vicious circle of fibbing to cover up uncomfortable truths, which in turn lead to more fibbing to cover that up, and on it would go. I would not that you consider us monsters, though. No children locked up in the cellar…

At my baptism I was very firmly resolved to turn that circle on its head. But as is predictable, it did not work in one giant leap. Not for a while, at least. And I don’t want any of you thinking I was guilty of great atrocities. It’s just that I would not have a healthy perspective to truth and untruth.

Now, I want to diverge to another related matter. It is absolutely okay to tell a lie at times. Let’s say a murderer is looking for someone, and asks me if I know where this someone is. Isn’t it a much greater sin to tell this murderer where her/his victim is, than to say I have no earthly idea? I much think so!

However, there are only so many cases, where that logic applies.

But where am I coming out from? Or, as our vocabulary changes with time, should I say, what am I coming out as? I am coming out as three things:

One, I’m coming out as a member of a group, whose representatives ended up in the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, since they were deemed un-Aryan, un-European and un-human. I wonder if Hitler was privy to the supreme irony (and/or, perhaps hilarity/pitiableness) of his notion that Aryans somehow were the prime representatives of the Scandinavian-looking blue-eyed, fair-skinned superhuman master race. I am a Roma/Rom (a member of the Romani People, as explained in the linked Wikipedia article). It is speculated that at least some of my ancestors were driven out of India by the Aryans. Did I say Irony?

By the way, I checked the “pitiableness” from two dictionaries myself. It’s definitely a word. (I figured this needed a touch of levity, and for me it means going for a geeky thing…)

Two, I’m coming out as a member of a group, whose existence most of my neighbors would rather ignore: Mormons. They can not persecute us openly, so they do it below the surface. The homework that was assigned in a class that my daughter did not attend, because she’s not a member of the majority religion. The toilet bowls I scrubbed when the others attended a service in a local church (I was called a heathen, and believe me that it did not help my case to remind them that if anything, I had a stronger Christian conviction than them).

Most people take it quite well, I am glad to say.

Three, I am coming out as someone, who has felt the healing touch of my Savior; his Atonement has given me hope that I can overcome by faith. I have felt to “sing the song of redeeming love” (See Alma 5) and to praise the Lord for his goodness.

In a word, I have overcome the first two with the power given me by number three.

This world will never be a better place, until there is forgiveness. Unless we learn to forgive and forget, there will never be a time, when people will be able to live together in peace. There are always new injustices to avenge — multiplied by each new round of vengeance (“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord) involving yet new generations. There will be no end to revenge.

So I invite you to come and learn of the Savior. Visit a meetinghouse, go to church, try to see each human being as someone you have more in common with than what separates you superficially. Talk to your LDS neighbor — unless he is a really rotten apple. Talk to the missionaries who ring your doorbell. Visit the Church website and read the Book of Mormon. We are not perfect by any measure, I know that. But I have experienced my burning bush and received a witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ, of his Atonement and Resurrection. With that, it doesn’t matter that my peers would sometimes ostracize me. I know that he lives, and that I have a life because of that.

One of the most beautiful verses in the Scriptures starts with the words, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O King…” (Daniel 3, see especially verse 18)

If you feel feisty after this, go to my Bloggernacle Back Burner to vent, let’s keep this civil, okay?

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