Please stop

Got in some more Dark Souls; got past the Crystal Sage and well into the Cathedral area (I think I’m near the boss). Still having a lot of fun with the game – it treads the line between challenging and frustrating very artfully. After a challenging fight there will often be a bonfire, so you don’t have to re-do the challenging fight again. There’s enough of a difficulty that you feel GOOD about clearing an area, but not so much that you don’t want to go back in and try again. At least, that’s been the case for me so far. We’ll see, I guess.

I’ve noticed the racist things my mom says a lot more frequently lately, and I don’t know if she’s getting worse about it or I’m just being more observant, but it’s driving me crazy. Lately I hear a lot of “that’s very white of them” or “that would be the white thing to do” and my brain for a second thinks the word is right, and then I realize what it actually is.

When I try to call her on it, it’s always “just a phrase” or “I didn’t mean it that way”. Today I didn’t call her on it, and I feel like a shit for not doing so. I was just… tired. Tired of going to my mom expecting comfort and then getting… this. Having to be the grown-up. I don’t know. I’ll try harder. I’ll do more, next time.

I read a book a few months ago called Hillbilly Elegy as part of a reading group I had found online who were trying to make sense of the results of the election. Usually I roll my eyes when someone says that a book changed their life, but this certainly did something to my perspective. It talks about honor codes among Appalachian families and their kids, how if you can’t trust the government you can only trust your family, so family becomes All-Important. You might hate the way your mother spanks the shit out of you when you fuck something up, but god help anyone else who says a word against her. Or you know your uncle is an alcoholic, but you’re damn sure not going to let anyone else run their mouth about it.

It results in a sort of hypervigilance because there is a feeling of always being on the defensive, always having to defend the family honor. But typically in these families, the actual members of the family are also constantly at each others’ throats – maybe because of the hypervigilant state they’re in all the time, I don’t know – and you just accept it. It becomes normal.

You normalize the things your family says and does because to do otherwise is to admit to their faults and open them for attack, and you don’t do that because family sticks together, no matter what.

Anyway, while the situations in my family certainly don’t seem to be as extreme as the ones chronicled in Hillbilly Elegy, there were a lot of things that rang uncomfortably true with me and my family experience growing up. Always being on the defensive. Fighting among your family but defending them without exception to outsiders. The development of an “us vs. them” mentality, intended to keep the family banding together, maybe unconsciously, but still present.

I just thought it was normal. In the fourth grade I used the word “negro” because it was in the book we were reading and I didn’t know any better.

Frequently, particularly if she is drinking, my mom will apologize to me for my “having to be the grown-up” for years when I was a kid. And I know that she’s beaten herself up about it so much already, so I always absolve. It’s okay, mom. You did fine. Which is, I suppose, an extension of “being the grown-up.”

I lost the thread of this a bit, but sometimes I want to say: If you’re really sorry, then grow up now. Think before you speak. Respect others’ feelings. Please stop calling good things “white” and referring to certain people as “towelheads.” Stop saying that it’s the way you grew up and your father used these words so much and you just can’t help it. If I can help it, so can you. I know you can be responsible in other respects. I’ve seen it. Exercise it here, in your interactions with other people.

I guess I just wish I could reach out to my family for support without being reminded that we’re part of the problem. I don’t know.

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