Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Name Game

Below is my newest blog on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter website.  My blog gets personal at times, but it's where truth comes out.  Sometimes we need to hear the truth. 

Am I Otis Mary’s Clyde’s Missy or Henry Mabel’s Mary’s Missy?
Labels.  Reputation. Names.

We live in a world of all of the above.  It all starts with our family name and spreads from there.  Oh yes, you’re Clyde’s daughter.  Oh you’re Mary’s daughter.  Yes, you’re Shelly’s sister, or Selena’s mom.  We’re identified by our family and where we live.  Our community is close knit and if you come from the Amish then you just might be Jacob Esther’s sister.  It’s our way of tracking down just where and when we came into this world and where we belong.  In a way, it gives us our sense of just where we fit in.
I can’t remember how many times we may have talked about someone new, or told an older person about them.  They will literally spend hours trying to figure out where they come from, who are their parents, who are their grandparents and what side of the family tree they might hail from.  It’s a rhythm as old as the hills, and one that won’t die unless we stop being curious as to who people are. 

I doubt this will ever happen because we’re too darn inquisitive.

When I married George I married out of the circle.  He always tells our kids not to worry, that his blood will overpower anybody that may be remotely related to us.  Meaning not to worry if you fall in love with a 3rd cousin once removed.  We chuckle over this, but it is true.  Our community needs a fresh infusion of new blood once in a while.

What happens to this train of belonging when you throw an event into the mix?  Say you’re sister did something that caused a ruckus in school, or your brother went to jail.  Are we forever labeled, along with our names, to this event?  Imagine a scenario like this, “You want to go out with who?  Don’t you know that their brother did that terrible thing?  You’re not allowed they are probably just like them.”

This is where labeling comes in.  This child won’t do well in school because the teachers hated the older sister, or he just can’t live up to the fantastic grades the other sister gets.  In our minds, we are silently labeling people according to someone else’s mistakes.  And that’s what they are – mistakes.  This is wrong and also hypocritical.  Are you trying to hide something your great uncle did back in the day?  Should you be labeled because of it?

Unfortunately, this is an all too true experience.  Our children, who we have made very proud of their mixed heritage, have fought a fight that can be sometimes overwhelming.  They’ve been made in the image of their father and mother – a beautiful mix that has given them caramel skin and lovely dark hair.  Because of this, they’ve been told to hop back across the border where they came from.  This is where labeling unravels, because you can’t change who you are.  Sometimes they stare back at them and tell them, I was born in Millersburg, how about you?  Even if they had been born across that border, which their father was, what of it?  What stereotype have they learned to group all brown-skinned children in the same group?  Or to have the nerve to tell them, because of their skin, that they need to leave?  How is this the first thing that comes out of their mouth?  Maybe the question we should be asking is where do they learn it.

My daughter, who now goes to school in the Caribbean-influenced West Palm Beach, is accused of not being Hispanic enough.  The ethnicity of that area is mainly Cuban, so having roots in Mexico is looked down upon at times.  It’s a tough road – and one she is passionate to change with her political science major. 

Still, my children hail from Holmes County, OH.  They’ve been raised here just like every other Eli Martha’s Joseph.  Their blood may be beautifully blended with another culture, but they still are Henry Mabel’s Mary’s Missy’s George’s Esabelle Selena and Hunter.  As well as Maximo Evangelina’s Antonio’s Missy’s Esabelle Selena and Hunter - label, stereo-type, reputation or not.