The strangeness of being raised by a family that doesn’t look like you comes and goes over time. But the racial inequities that exploded to the surface in 2020 birthed a reckoning, and this reckoning made me yearn for commonality more than ever before.
I was reeling from an election season that exposed unfathomable bigotry. Damaging bigotry exposed in neighbors, friends, and family. And with the loss of each friendship, I reflected on prejudicial origins.
Soul-searching with refreshed eyes, I reflected on the prejudices that I have held, along with the prejudices that have been held against me. And as I reflected, I found myself seeking out the previously unknown side of my family. The family that looks like me. The family that may be able to relate.
Eventually becoming exhausted by sleepless nights of scrolling marriage certificates and obituaries, I realized that I had but one lead to follow. It was time to contact my father.
For more than twenty years, largely through social media, I kept tabs on him from a safe distance. Just in case the time would come for a relationship, I monitored his whereabouts.
Without getting into the details of why I waited twenty years, I will say, my younger self was simply not prepared to deal with the demons that he fought in his own life.
But with that being said, I still had hopes that things would be different this time. After all, now I am an adult, a mother, and a woman that has made great strides in the way of self-assurance.
Perhaps he was different too? Maybe, now that I didn’t need him as a parent, we would be able to connect as adults. Connect over life stories, family members, social concerns, racism.
So I did it. I threw caution to the wind as they say, and fired off my first sign of life via Facebook. And at first, things went surprisingly well. He was genuinely excited to hear from me. And while rapidly bringing me up to speed on our shared family members, he gleefully forwarded cousin’s photos, uncle’s birth dates, grandparent’s death dates, and every date of meaning in between.
Then it happened. The cracks that would destroy my hopes of having a social justice comrade for a father began to appear. And it all started with a Youtube video that he shared.
To my horror, my father sent me an argumentative video detailing how BLM activists orchestrated the insurrection at the capitol. And it didn’t stop there.
Relentless and with something to prove, he forwarded conspiratorial articles and conservative podcasts. All the while, repeatedly using language with discriminatory undertones. Even as I made polite attempts to get him to change the subject, his attempts to influence and persuade persisted.
Exasperated, I made my stance on these issues abundantly clear. In defense, my father used his own brown skin, and the fact that he has black “friends”, to justify his opinions.
Sigh… It became glaringly obvious, the camaraderie I sought was not coming in the form of my father.
So where does a parent/child relationship go from here? Do I retreat back to the shadows as a Facebook stalker? Hopefully not. Despite our differences, I would like to stay in touch. But with enormous conversational boundaries in place.
And as for my quest for commonality?
I realized that I had it all along. The people in my life that stand along side me today, may not provide commonality in genetic features, but each one provides the benefit of commonality through shared experiences and principles. Like they say, you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends.