Category Archives: James Baldwin

Safe world vs. protected and insular one

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I was on my way to work while enjoying the banter between two

local radio cohosts, Dino and Stacy. I honestly have seen Dino

Tripodis, out and about, also at the Children’s Hospital fundraisers.

The music is always easy listening on Sunny 95 (94.7). Their choice

of subject matter may make you “cringe.” Dino is frankly a great

late night comedian at the Funny Bone located at Easton Towne

Center, Columbus, Ohio.

Dino is Greek, he mentions this a lot. He is dark, attractive and I

would term him, “swarthy looking.” A dapper dresser when  a host at

fundraisers and I think most people would find him a tad ‘raunchy’

(dare I say, “potty mouthed?”) when performing as a comedian. Sorry,

but  who isn’t when they are entertaining a night crowd of drinking

adults at a comedy club?

Dino made his opening introduction of the “call in” topic of the day:

“How does your workplace do in their handling controversial

subjects?”

Dino’s first three examples may offend you but they were meant

to open discussions and receive more call ins. One example of

bigotry Dino explained happened to him, “Hey, exactly what ethnic

group are you a member of?” Dino said there was no preamble or

lead in lines, either. Just jumping right in.

His next one was aimed at a fellow coworker who had brought in

his own family specialty. Dino overheard someone coming into the

radio station, saying,

“Hey, who is cooking that smelly food?”

Last example given, was asked of a friend while they were

walking together around the Columbus Jazz and Ribfest,

“Are you black or are you Indian?”

These are ‘cringe worthy’ comments. I think that sometimes

the people know they are politically incorrect and proceed

to aim them, with some kind of animosity. But, on the other hand,

sometimes they may be just plain ignorant of social norms. In this

case, they need to start moving in a wider circle and embracing

more differences in their lives!

I am appalled to tell you that my third grade grandson, Skyler, was

walking in for his first day of school with his stepdad and little

brother, Micah. A classmate came up to him, while they were both

trying to find their lockers. They had been given for the first time,

the number of a “big kid” locker and Mike and Micah had dropped

back a few paces to allow the learning experience to unfold. This

boy asked him the following question, really truly…

“Is your Dad black or is he one of those terrorist groups?”

Skyler blinked a few times, looked up at his stepdad and with a

whole lot of moxie and so much intelligence, answered,

“Hi Jacob, this is my stepdad, Mike. Actually, he is half black and half

white, his son is my brother. My biological Dad is white. I call my

stepdad, “Dad” when I am around him.”

When my children were little, I made a point as my parents had

done before for my brothers and me, to introduce many cultures

including their foods. I found my son to be the one who enjoyed

the spices in curried chicken, who loved the sardines and different

fish from cans. My father had introduced us to gefilte fish with his

good friends, the Lezbergs. We liked going to their unusual house

that had a two story atrium where birds flew around and lizards

crawled. The children became our friends and we had the great

experience of seeing the eldest son’s Bar Mitvah in their synagogue.

Dad, in fact, at NASA, had another coworker who was named

Samuel Palmer, who introduced him to pigs’ feet, corn “pone” and

black-eyed peas, bringing home some of Samuel’s wife’s homemade

Southern family dishes for us to try, too. We ended up being one of

only three white families at their daughter’s wedding.

While in California, Dad really enjoyed the Chinese food he had

discovered in Chinatown and tried buffets where the selection was

fantastic. He would call home, just to hear that we were having hot

dogs, salad and mac ‘n cheese. Mom said it bothered her more when

he was eating steak and lobster, since she missed “surf and turf” more.

While traveling we would try Japanese food, watching the fascinating

Chef/servers with their sharp knives chopping the vegetables and

meats up. The strange treats of chocolate covered ants and crickets

were given us, without much fanfare. We liked the sweet and sour

sauces and eventually the spicy General Tso’s sauce, too.

Living a life full of plain mashed potatoes, corn and chicken, one

of my ex-husbands loved his time in Japan. He learned to immerse

himself on weekends in the culture. He spent time getting off the

base and participating in local theatre, trips up gorgeous mountains,

exploring and sightseeing. He discovered beautiful gardens, special

museums and worship places where they took part in spiritual

ceremonies like churches.

This surprised him when he would inquire of his fellow Air Force

buddies if they would like to join him. There were few who were

interested in venturing out. He mentioned to me, on one of our

early dates,

“I felt alive while exploring more there than in our own country.

Somehow, a little “risk” and becoming involved in a different part

of the world, made it even more exciting than his past vacation

experiences.

Back to the subject of parenting, my youngest daughter, some

may have read that I chose to raise her on her own. When she

started to get curious, she would have her “real” Dad come and

visit.

Mainly her sources of love and father role models were her two

uncles and her grandfather.

Her stepfather, having an Irish name, had more of a tan complexion

and coal black hair, along with dark brown eyes. He was often asked

where his coloring came from, he would say his mother’s side of the

family. He could have said, there are also “black Irish,” too.

In Spain and France, located in  the Pyranees Mountains, a group

lighter skinned and blonde ancestors were supposed to originate.

While in Mexico, one of the students on our Spanish Club trip, got

a lot of attention. Gina was blonde and blue eyed. While in Spain,

a year later, she was not accosted as often nor called, “muy bonita

Senorita!” as often, due to this strange fact that there are blonde

inhabitants more in the Northern region.

Recently, a friend of mine who was raised on a farm, confided that

her family wasn’t very open minded sometimes. In her lifetime, she

could remember her Dad using the word “n—— rigged” when he

would take two parts and try to connect without any connection

or meaning “making do.” She also mentioned that her Granny used

the name with “n” in it to talk about in those days,people who my

family was still using “colored” people or “folks.”

We did advance to the seventies, where my Mom introduced in her

English classroom modern “Black Literature.” Her curriculum

included books like , “Black Like Me,” by John Howard Griffin,

(written in 1961.)

Other famous writers during those times were James Baldwin, Toni

Morrison and Langston Hughes. While Mom assigned these to her

high school students, the books were given to us on our family

bookshelf for summer reading.

When my middle brother, Randy read John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”

and his fourth grade teacher, Miss Root, doubted he really read it.

Even after hearing his book report this was challenged.  With some

fierceness in her approach, my Mom went in to back him up on this.

Books open many peoples’ lives and give them dreams, along with

knowledge of other cultures and the world, too.

My discussion started with the impetus or spark of a controversial

radio show this morning. It continued to “fester” and include some

‘close to home’ examples. Then, it became how families need to

evolve sometimes to meet the challenge of our multicultural

environment.

The gifts to our children and grandchildren can include tasting a

variety of foreign foods. A new lease on life can be found in all the

wonderful festivals that surround us. It may involve visiting some

museums around that feature culture in many dimensions of the

word.

All Fine Art Museums include international art. There are examples

of cultural artifacts, tapestries and sculptures. In Columbus, Ohio

our art museum is totally free on Sundays! (There is a donation

box but no one pressures anyone on these family days!)

History or Science Museums can open doors to a variety of unique

and fascinating subjects. The subject of nature and its exploration

was mentioned in my last post, so no need to go to that as a way

to widen little ones’ horizons.

I love this simple old fashioned comment,

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

It is so much deeper than I thought it meant. Especially,  when it

includes changing and accepting more exciting worlds than your

own back yard! By opening your doors, you may just open your

children or grandchildren’s ways of thinking, too.

And that is a “gain” no one can put a price tag on…