Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

Archive for the ‘class’ Category

Op-Ed on Prop 8 and the Black Community

Posted by thoughtful1 on November 11, 2008

I read this today by Jasmyne A. Cannick.  It provides insight into why blacks did not oppose Proposition 8, and it exposes the disconnect between the black community and the white GLBT community.  My initial reaction was, “white liberals fail to get the race thing (again).”  Maybe later I’ll have a more refined opinion.

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What kind of white people are these?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 23, 2007

I went to see The Namesake two weeks ago. Very good movie. I had also read the book. However, there was one part of it that mystified me, mostly because I’ve heard other Asians talk about this, as if all white people did this:

When the main character, Gogol, brings home his WASP girlfriend, she rattles his Indian parents by immediately calling them by their first names. Horribly rude. Especially in Indian (and Asian) culture.

A few months ago I got together with several other Asian Americans – NOT adopted. They got to talking about trying to raise their children and bridge that divide between general (White) American culture and the Asian culture that they were raised with. One comment people made was how the white people in their church would call people by their first names, even if it was a child talking to an adult. I got the feeling that every white person they encountered did this, that it was perfectly normal in white American culture to call adults by their first names if they are significantly older than you.

Who are these white people? I don’t know any of them, and I live in a very, very white world!

Yes, I did call my mom’s friends by their first names, BUT only when I was told to! I never presumed to call any of my friends’ parents by their first names. I never went over to so-and-so’s house and said, “Hi Dave and Judy!” It was always, “Hi Mr. Smith! Hi Mrs. Smith!” And none of my white friends ever presumed to call my parents by their first names. My mom will tell people to call her by her first name, but my friends only do that because she tells them to, and I think they feel a little weird about it.

So, who are these white people who go around thinking everyone can be on a first name basis? Are they uber-wealthy liberal WASPs who are soooo entitled they can ignore Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post?  Or is it just a situation where a handful of white folks are doing this, and in turn have given the impression to Asian immigrants that all white Americans do this?

Who are these people?

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And the church lesson for the day is…?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 8, 2007

I think God has an ironic sense of humor, and I think He likes to tease me every now and then.

I went to church this morning. I was tempted to sleep in due to being a goob and staying up so late last night, but I didn’t go last week, it’s Easter (not that I’m big into Easter), and I had left over brownies and dolly bars to unload on the coffee hour goodie table.

Blessedly, being UUs, we didn’t have an extra long service. At least I don’t think we did – I didn’t check my watch when it ended, but our current minister is pretty good at ending the service at 11:30. Anyway, in the service we sang two hymns, “Morning Has Broken” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.”

I love “Joyful Joyful.” It’s one of my favorites, and we don’t sing it very often. However, the joy in singing “Morning Has Broken” was killed in boarding school where we sang it (Hymn #8 in the Episcopal hymnal) ad infinitum, ad nauseaum. I suspect that Hymn #8’s frequent appearances in chapel services was due to some hippy dippy chapel prefect saying, “Dude, let’s sing hymn #8. Cat Stevens sang it… that would sooo cool to sing it in chapel!” So we sang it, and sang it, and sang it some more, until I felt I would be happy to go through the rest of life without ever hearing that song again and be happy. I would even change the radio station if the Cat Stevens version came on. I really grew to hate that song.

But, oh how I loved singing “Joyful Joyful,” especially since for the first few years of boarding school we had a music director who could pull all the stops on the organ. He’d have the organ going full blast, illustrating all the wonder and grandeur and holy gravitas the Anglican musical tradition possesses. It was one of the few things I enjoyed in chapel.

Yet, for some reason, the only times we ever seem to sing “Joyful Joyful” in my little UU church are also the only times we ever seem to sing “Morning Has Broken.” It’s as if in order to enjoy one of my favorite hymns I have to endure one of my least favorite.

And maybe that is what God, the universe, life is trying to tell me. You can’t just have what you enjoy – you have to learn to deal with life’s unpleasantries; accept the good with the bad. Trite, I know. But maybe that is what it is.

Or maybe it is something else. The first time my church sang the dreaded Hymn #8, which is a different number in the UU hymnal, I cringed. I didn’t sing along. I just sighed inwardly and waited for the song to be over. However, since then, over the the three or four years I’ve been attending, my animosity towards the song has waned. This morning I sang along, and I didn’t find it too objectionable. It is still not my first choice of hymns, and I still fail to feel the joy of morning the song is trying to convey. But I did not feel the cringe reflex.

Perhaps enough time has passed since graduating from high school that my negative feelings towards that place have begun to fade. Or maybe I can begin to put them into proper perspective. After all, it really isn’t the song itself that caused me misery. It was whoever picked the song so many times for chapel service. It was my being forced to attend mandatory chapel services done in a religious tradition to which I do not belong. It was my not fitting in, and feeling alienated. And perhaps it is time for me to let go of those teenaged resentments, however valid.

I’m 36 now. It’s been 18 years since graduation. And while there was quite a bit my boarding school did wrong, I still was able to benefit from my experience there, although some benefits I didn’t notice until much later.

I got a good education. I learned, via osmosis, how to better negotiate class, which has helped me to understand different people better. I learned that while some rich people are assholes, there are a good number of rich people who are not. I made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Hispanics and Latinos from places like Lawrence and Lowell. First generation Indian Americans. Upper and upper middle class blue bloods. Future socialites of the Upper East Side. Nouveau riche. I learned that you cannot fully judge a person based on their class, income, or clothes. I learned that a person’s true value is based on their sincerity, their respect for others, and their actions.

Which leads me back to the lesson that life is a mixed bag. You have to take the good with the ugly. Or, maybe the more specific point is that few things are purely bad or purely good. And while it is part of our nature to rush to judgment, sometimes it takes time for us to see the larger picture and to be able to put things into perspective.

And part of that step is letting go of past resentments.

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