Generation gaps are painful.

My Grandma is awesome. She’s been there for me my entire life, never forgets a birthday and we have a special bond. She lives in Florida now and I’m in New York so unfortunately we don’t see each other often. My Grandpa was a hard working family man who passed away about 5 years ago so my Grandma lives alone in their retirement community. I grew up idolizing my Grandparent’s marriage and relationship. My Grandpa suffered from debilitating anxiety, went through a rough time around 50 years old and retired early. He spent his entire life busting his ass at work so that his wife could stay home and raise their 3 children comfortably. He worked so hard that when his anxiety was too much to bare at 50 years old he retired early and my Grandma continues to live off of his earnings today (she’s 82 years old).

My husband and I just returned from Florida where we stayed with my Grandma for a week. I’m glad that I got to see my Grandma. We’ve always been close and every time after I see her now I think that it could be the last time. However, despite the fact that I know she’s a good person she said some things this past week that just hasn’t sat well with my husband or I. The only explanation I have for it is our generational gap. Let me explain.

This little old lady is nice to your face no matter who you are. It’s what she says behind closed doors that you would find appalling.

What I heard this week was racist. Hateful. Ungrateful. Without empathy. Towards all types of ethnicities. Sexual orientation. Gender.

People who know me know that I’m passionate about gender equality. That I judge people buy their actions and not what they look like. That I have a whole lot of empathy for those who are underprivileged. I’m not like this because of the way I was raised because I was raised by people who do not necessarily have these same values. I think I’m like this because of my generation. I’m a millennial who has grown up in an equality movement. My Grandma grew up when segregation was still a thing and you lived your life according to the Bible. You stayed at home and raised babies and made dinner instead of having a job or having a career.

Here are a few of the things that went horribly wrong this past week:

1. Grandma commented on every female’s appearance. “She’s hideous”, “she’s fat”. How about we judge people based on what’s on the inside, no?

2. Grandma insulted a gay couple that lives next door to her. She thinks they are bad people because they are gay. “I wonder what they do over there all day? Probably pile on top of each other – gross!”, “He likes men and that’s wrong”, “I bet they’re drug addicts and he picks up men at the gay bar”. My mother in law is gay. My poor husband listened to these insults all week and maintained composure until the end. A saint.

3. My Grandma blatantly does not like minorities. She says derogatory terms like “colored person”, tells me she doesn’t like Mexicans and says that if any of the women in my family ended up with a minority we would have been disowned. How awful is this thought process? My cousin married a Mexican woman and she’s lovely. She probably doesn’t know a minority personally. Ignorant.

4. My Grandma and I were watching the news one morning when she said “there are too many women reporting the news. This is a mans job. I like to get my news from a man behind the desk.” WHAT?! All of these things are horrendous. This one impacted me personally as a female who has a career and works hard to break that glass ceiling.

5. My Grandma never talked down on my Grandpa for having a mental illness until he passed away. Now she’s saying he was awful to deal with and she had to be his therapist for years and she’s happy he’s no longer with us. My Grandpa had awful anxiety. He treated my Grandma like a queen. Always. She had the best life because of him and he was always there for her when she needed him. When he needed her she was there, but resents him for it. Heart breaking.

6. My Grandma’s cousin married a man who lived a double life. He had 2 wives and had families with both. When her cousin found out she was horrified but stayed with him despite knowing he was involved in and supporting another family. Grandma said she had to stay and men just do what they want. My Mother was subjected to domestic violence by my Father. Despite that, my Grandma told her to stay with him. My Dad was beating the shit out of her daughter and she told her to stay with him. What??

7. I struggle with anxiety as well. My Grandma told my husband that he needs to beware of what is to come with me (thinking that I’ll follow in my Grandpa’s footsteps), telling him that I’m not confident. That I’m “mental”. Will be an “invalid”. My husband is my biggest fan and naturally came to my defense. That resulted in a heated exchange after which my Grandma told me that she thinks he’s “negative” and a “know it all”. That is not the case at all. No one knows how hard I fight.

People change with age. Experiences. Time. Truth is, that woman I grew up idolizing has always been this way. She’s just old now and doesn’t care about who she hurts or how she makes others feel.

I love my Grandma. But I’m disappointed in her lack of empathy and ignorance. I know there is nothing that you can do to make a 82 year old woman change her thought process. My husband tried.

What is interesting is that my Mom’s thought processes are between my Grandma’s and my own. I can only hope that the next generation continues to move in the right direction.

Love is love. We all bleed red. None of us are superior. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Equal work equal pay.

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History repeats itself.

I have a lot of opinions. I don’t typically get political, but I feel like I have to just get this off of my chest after the President’s comments at an Alabama rally this week. President Trump called on NFL team owners to fire those “SOB” players that kneel during the national anthem at football games. Here’s my take:

I am a 30 year old American white woman. I was raised by parents who are racist in a predominantly white area. I didn’t have much interaction with people of other ethnicities and as such I was ignorant and feared African Americans due to the stories I was told by my parents growing up. I have never been racist. I always treated people how they treated me, regardless of what they looked like. 

When I was 18 years old, my parents moved from Western NY to about an hour north of Atlanta, GA. I thought people in WNY were racist (ha). In this little town of Jasper, GA I experienced hate for the first time, as did my parents. We were now labeled “Yankees” by southerners who were still stuck in the civil war era. My parents owned a diner which I worked at. During my tenure there, I heard my share of insults about being a Yankee. Being new to the area and younger, I struggled to fit in and make friends. I did notice a common theme with the people who labeled me a yankee and treated me differently: they were all uneducated (I don’t believe any of them had attended high school) and they never left the small town they grew up in and went out into the world. These same people were also racist; however, most of them had never spoken to an African American in their lives. It was also the first time that I had heard about the KKK outside of history class in high school. The KKK was active in North GA and knowing that completely baffled me. Needless to say, I lasted in GA for 4 months. I was 19 years old when I moved out of my parents house and went to live in Philadelphia with my boyfriend (now husband) whom I had a long distance relationship with since I left WNY.

When I moved to Philly, I enrolled in beauty school before learning the area and really settling in. And I’m so glad that I did. 

I was the Minority in beauty school. Literally, I was 1 of 2 white girls in a beauty school with almost 100 African American women. My first day of beauty school I was petrified. My entire life I was told that African Americans were criminals, had no morals, were poverty stricken and even that they hated white people. I kept to myself thinking maybe I won’t get beat up that way. It took 10 minutes for someone to approach me. Her name was Alliah. She was so nice and made me feel so welcome. When we had our first lunch break she invited me out with some of the girls. I was the only white girl invited. Reluctantly, I said yes. And I’m so glad that I did. Not one of those girls looked at or treated me like I was not like them. After time, we all became great friends and knowing them shattered any stereotypes I grew up believeing about African Americans. Alliah invited me to her house for dinner. She didn’t live in the best area in Philly and I had no idea what her family was like. I only knew that she had a huge family. Would they treat me like she did? Do they hate white people? I started questioning it. When I got there, I was greeted with a big hug from her Mother. They sat me at the head of the table and I experienced some of the best homemade food I’d ever had. Her entire family never once treated me like I was privelged or didn’t look like them, but I began to feel it. Her brother had a good job and education, but I knew he was paid less than a white man in the same position. I knew that when they left the house and were not around other African Americans they were probably not treated the same as their white counterparts. I knew that police in their town followed them constantly and looked for any reason they could find to pull them over. I also realized that I have never experienced any of their struggles (aside from gender pay equality, which is a topic for another day), which meant that I was privileged. Spending a year of my life with those girls and some of their families changed my life and my views. I will forever be grateful for the experience that I had while I lived in Philadelphia years ago. 

I am now back living in WNY. I am very patriotic. I love my country. I treat everyone equally. I have nothing but respect for our flag and the service members who risked and gave their lives for our freedom. I also understand why Colin Kaeprnick took a knee during the anthem during an NFL game. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out:

Because we live in a democracy that abides by the constitution of the USA, we have the freedom of speech. African Americans spent decades fighting for freedom. They got it. Once they became free, they spent decades fighting for equality. They have yet to get that. Years of peaceful protests have got them nowhere. An NFL player takes a knee during the national anthem to bring awareness to racial injustice and now people are talking about it. NFL fans, team owners, players, non-NFL fans, and even the president of the United States. I think we can all agree that there may be better ways to highlight the issue of racial injustice than kneeling during the anthem. However, that has all been done before and yet nothing has changed. 

So what is the answer? I say we do this. White people of America need to say the following to the protesters: “We hear you. We have empathy for you. Things need to change.”. Don’t like them protesting during the national anthem? LISTEN and have conversations to make change so that they no longer feel the need to do that to get your attention; don’t feel like they need to do that to be heard. It’s easy for white people to say there isn’t an issue because we are not impacted, but it doesn’t matter what we think. We are not in their shoes and never will be so we need to look within ourselves and say wow it would suck to be treated differently because I was white and take a stand to make a change. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am a white woman who is relentlessly patriotic. I love the USA and I realize how lucky we are to live in a country where we are free. I also realize that people are not treated equally in this country. I also realize that the current President has done nothing to condemn it. “Firing the son of a bitches” that protest is not the answer. Listening to their concerns and having empathy for people who are not like you is. If you can’t find it in you to do so, I encourage you to get out into the world and get cultured. 

All you need is love. ❤️