Fair warning: This might fall outside the bounds of what is politically correct, but since offense is in the “ear of the be-hearer”, it may bother some, even though that is not my intention.
When I was in college, Texas A&M people drove me crazy! When the road diverged in a yellow wood at the end of high school, I took the one less traveled by, stayed home, went to UT Arlington, and earned my degree working part time. It wasn’t the fun choice, but I thought it was the wise decision given my circumstances. Every summer, my friends would come home, many of whom went to the Mecca of College Station, and would tell me all about their experiences. I was a good sport until a few implied I wasn’t going to “a real school, like A&M”. Fortunately, I have since worked and worshiped with a number of people who attended A&M that are of the highest caliber. They are proud of their school, but their pride stops at the point of putting me or others down. It is because of those individuals, I have softened my opinion of that institution.
While my college woes are over, I’m finding that there are those types of people in just about everything. Some other’s that drive me crazy…
Apple people – Whether they be pods, pads, or phones, your i-Things are cool. They are sexy looking. They run better than mine… I just don’t care that much. This computer I am using was bought from Walmart for $800, and does everything I need it to do.
Health people – You are Greek gods and goddesses. I can bounce a quarter off your nippies, and that’s pretty neat. You can run and not grow weary. I just want to be able to drink a Mountain Dew around you without getting a lecture on how I’m basically drinking gasoline mixed with baby seal fat.
Diatribe over… Begin story…
Being a white kid growing up in the 1980’s in the South, I considered myself a pretty open-minded fellow. I learned all about the struggles of the US, as it went through a Civil War in the 1860’s and a civil rights movement in the 1960’s. I also thought “Blazing Saddles” in the 1970’s did a lot to challenge our nation to reach across racial lines (Was that a racial joke?!?… pretend I didn’t say it!). I have to confess, in my early years, I was very confused as to why my country wanted to know if I’m black, brown, or white on most every form I filled out, and, at the same time, why I was told in school how much it didn’t matter.
I decided, early on, I would be racially apathetic (regardless of what the census form asks). I wouldn’t care. After all, that’s what judging someone on the content of their character, not the color of their skin, was all about, right? I also believed you gave power to the things that you constantly bring up… why do we always talk about race? If it doesn’t matter, why do we want to “raise awareness”? Again, apathy seemed to be the best road, and I felt that I was doing pretty good since one of my best friends in elementary school, Damien, was black. I had a hand-full of Mexicans in my classes at school, but even through I didn’t really hit it off with any of them, I didn’t really treat them any differently either. I had no idea that I would one day marry a Mexican… (well 1/4 Mexican. As she puts it, she is Mexican from the shoulders up). I also had no idea that I would be the father to a bunch of little Colombians. Yes. I am the only one in my house that doesn’t have any Latin blood.
As we went through the adoption, we were asked several times about how we would keep our children’s culture in their lives. The first few times, I did not know what to say. It flew in the face of my racial apathy. Why do I need to do that? As a family, I would have thought we would want to build unity, not focus on the things that make us different… Also, they were coming to the US. They should learn our culture and traditions.
While we were in Bogota visiting La Casa de la Madre y el Nino, the home our kids were at before we got them, we met a gentleman who was adopted out of the same home 30 years ago to a family in Belgium. After we got past the small talk about how much I loved their waffles, he said something very profound… “Being Colombian makes me no less Belgian, and being Belgian makes me no less Colombian.”
He gave himself permission to be proud, not just of the blood in his veins but of the country and culture that shaped him. It challenged my apathy. As we have raised our kids, they have taught me the same thing.
They love their home country. I never will forget how amazed they were to learn that Shakira is also Colombian. They pointed out that the Texas wild-flowers (blue-bonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and yellow tickseed) have the same colors as the Colombian flag. Any time another country is brought up in school, they immediately want to know how close to Colombia it is.
They love their new country. They love ice in drinks, ice cream, fireworks, swimming, baseball, barbecue, and cowboy boots. They all told me they want to be cowboys/cowgirls when they grow up. They recognize both the Texas flag and the US flag and point it out whenever we see one in front of a building. Any time another country is brought up in school, the second thing they want to know is how close it is to Texas.
This past week we celebrated the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. We watched fireworks, attended a parade, went swimming, and ate lots of hot dogs. We were proud to be Americans.
In two weeks we will celebrate the Twentieth of July, Colombia’s Independence Day. We will eat yellow, blue, and red cupcakes and sing songs in Spanish. (How do I remember so well? This date will forever be emblazoned in my mind because it is the day we drove to Houston to get our visas from the Colombian Consulate only to find out that they were closed for the holiday… chronicled in this blog).
It is OK to be proud. It is OK to celebrate who we are, and where we came from. It is OK to talk about it. After all, it is what defines us. I also think it is neat that pride is not mutually exclusive and my family can love and support two great countries.
However, we must never let our pride give way us to prejudice… putting others down simply because of the difference.
And, on that note, I’m going to have a Mountain Dew and stare at my UT Arlington diplomas!
At the dinnermesa,