Saturday, September 29, 2007

All in the Family

Just before we went out to a birthmother panel, my DH unloads about the rather "lively" discussion he had with my sister and her husband about racism the night before. For crying out loud, I go out to work for a few hours and they manage to get into an argument. The main contention seems to be that my sister asserts that black people can't be racist. Sigh. Oh yeah and the fact that when my sister found out I was dating a white guy, she wasn't too happy about it. She said it wasn't his colour, she just didn't like him. Not that she even knew him or took the time to get to know him. I remember that, she barely even looked at him even though the first time she met him at my mum's place, he brought a chicken burger. And that she wouldn't like it if her son came home with a white girl however, an Asian girl would be okay. That set my husband off. He told her she was a racist and that she was just like my older sister. Cripes. My sis didn't like that, I'm sure as she doesn't think too highly of my eldest sister. My brother in law apparently agreed with my husband since he didn't come to his wife's defence. My hubby and him get along quite well.

So as he's telling me all this, I decide to not defend my sister for a change. I do that a lot it seems. I listen and realize he's offended and hurt by her attitude, especially since she's sitting in his house. I let him know that the original plan of having her and her family move in with us for a while after they sell their home may not be such a hot idea. He tells me that he's willing to wait and see what happens.

My husband has very high expectations for people who call themselves family. He has seen what I have gone through these past 4 years, dealing with my mum, the tears, despair and frustration as I've sorted through her life and try to put it in order. We've gotten all the late night, early morning teary phone calls, we go to the care conferences, the doctor appointments, we put our life on a schedule to accommodate her, and through all of it, we tried to get pregnant. It's been hard on me, on both of us, and what he wants to see is her extending herself to me with care and compassion. And he doesn't see it. He sees self-centredness. This makes him very, very angry.

My sister's life hasn't been easy either, I know she feels guilt about not being here, she's busy working and caring for her only son, who spent the first few years with frequent illnesses, her husband's frequent unemployment and inability to assist her in family organizational matters. She doesn't eat very much and she's often tired. I also understand our family's karma. We don't demonstrate a great deal of affection with one another, we hold things in, act strong and cope as best we can. We don't confront.

It was hard to get a lot of chanting done this week, but I did get it a little in. And when the daimoku (chanting nam myo ho renge kyo) ran out, I resorted to white wine. Yep, you can pick your nose but you can't pick your family. Meh.


Teendoc said...

There are quite a few blacks who subscribe to the notion that blacks can't be racist, though they can be prejudiced. It comes from the equation that racism=prejudice + power and since blacks do not have power, they cannot be racist. The Angry Black Woman describes this more eloquently than I can.

My husband (also white) will debate this until the cows come home, but I agree with this take. I think we can and frequently are prejudiced, but we can't be racist. On this, we've agreed to disagree.

Sorry about the family disharmony.

Deathstar said...

I checked out that link. Wow. Very interesting. Passed it on to DH and I hope he doesn't pop a blood vessel. I get it and acknowledge it, not so sure how I feel about it. Not sure how useful this perspective vis a vis race relations. I certainly do understand my sister's viewpoint now though. Not that she has brought it up with me.

One thing I've noticed is that Americans see everything through the filter of race. I went to school for a while in the States, and white people were always asking my opinion about some racial issue or another. Even in multicultural cities, I felt as if I didn't have the freedom to walk anywhere I wanted to with ease.

Can't say I ever felt that way here. Not that racism is alive and well here, I've felt the brunt of it from time to time, but I never really felt that heavy weight. Thank you for sending me that link though.

Teendoc said...

Yeah, the relationship of race in the US is similar to the relationship to sex. No one wants to talk about it, but it permeates everything.

As an assimilated black woman, it is not uncommon for a majority individual to come up and ask me, "why do black people do xyz?" My response is that at the next Black People Meeting I will ask and get back to her with an answer.

I wish I could say that it is just our overfocusing on race that is the issue, but as my blog-crush the Angry Black Woman would tell you, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get me!