Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I was born in Ferguson, Missouri. When I was three months old my mom left my dad and moved in with her parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have no memories of Ferguson. No identification with it. It's typing on my birth certificate.
The news from Ferguson is painful. It's not just Ferguson, of course. It's New York and California and Chicago and Florida.
I want to believe that I have some kind of innate character. I want to believe that even if I had grown up in Ferguson that I would have the same revulsion and anger I feel now when I hear the news of another young black man murdered by the people who have sworn to protect and serve. But there's no way to know. My father was racist. What if I had been Daddy's girl?
I didn't meet my father until I was eleven or twelve. I spent less than a year with him.  A month here. A week there. Even at 61 I can feel my throat tighten with hurt and longing. Not always. But often. When I see fathers with babies I am sort of mystified. What does that feel like?
Therapy? Been there. Done that. And I have this part of my narrative in a compartment. But it is part of how I experience the world. There's a gap in the programming. An absence.
My dad was extremely charming. He was the youngest child, the only boy. His father died when he was young. He had the same gap in programming. And he was raised by a mother and two sisters who thought he was the sun and the moon. He believed women  were there for him. If I had been raised by him would my desire to please him have shaped me into a different person? How different? In what ways?
Racism, in my world, was absence. There were no people of color in my neighborhood, in my church, in my school. I remember feeling very curious about them. I remember feeling like they were interesting because of their difference. I remember feeling like I just wasn't in on something. Something very cool. And that is a kind of racism. It may seem benign. It may seem like a function of the culture and the times. If I'd grown up in Ferguson I would have a different experience. But would I be different?
It's in the nature of privilege to assume that you know the truth. But there really is no way to know. What ever sadness I have about my father's absence in my life is matched by a sense that I was much better off with out him.
There is nothing about Ferguson that  feels like home. But, in fact, it is where I am from.

No comments: