Recently I have been reading J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” Link on my Kindle, and I have to say that this is an important book. I heard about this book first on New York Times via Facebook. J.D. Vance article I was compelled because in the last couple years especially I have been concerned with addressing racism. I’m doing this through Conversation with various people and projects with Justin “Neo” Shockley over at Justin’s website 🙂 and our good friend Chantal at Follow Chantal 🙂 on twitter.
I won’t go on for to long about this book because I have massive amounts of school work to do and I need to make lunch. I will say this. I am committed to ending racism. How do I do that as one person? That’s a powerful and difficult question. One answer I have found is, going back into my childhood. By going back into my childhood I’m remembering all the challenges and struggles my family faced as poor white folks in upstate New York and the dysfunctions we experienced but also the glory and triumph.
I know that I wasn’t raised to be a racist but the culture was all around us. My grandpa who I love a great deal on my Mom’s side of the family used to tell me the most horrible things I could think of about black folks. Get this, we didn’t have any in the sticks of Montgomery, NY and until I moved to Albany and Schenectady with my dad, I didn’t know a single black person or person of color of any kind. Hell, I was so ignorant that I thought Asian folks were a different kind of white person. I’m sorry for how ignorant I was. I don’t speak for all of my community as I don’t believe they felt that way. It just kind of speaks to one me personally and how I developed and two the education system for students with learning disabilities. In Montgomery, NY the school and property taxes were some of the highest yet, I don’t remember anything I was taught except in my second time in 9th grade Mrs. Bonacic ( I could be wrong) English teacher, gave me a copy of The Giver in In-school suspension and it began a process of learning that started with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
But, anyway prior to that, that was what I picked up. I didn’t know that we had 7 continents. I don’t even know now, haha. See I’m in a MDIV program but I’m still that dirty poor kid from upstate NY who was more concerned with trucks, woods, and imagination than I was being accepted by society. I felt that society didn’t understand me anyway. Vance, felt the same way. He wanted to make it work, but his home life was so bad, that he couldn’t. He was forced to learn through massive mistakes, but the grace of God gave him new possibilities in time.
Anyway, what I was trying to get to is that. In going back into my past I found similarities with the Rust Belt of Ohio and other folks who are poor and white. I found that I understand their grievances but I don’t understand their racism. Now, I’m not saying all poor white folks are racist. I think that many of us are prejudiced and we hold onto that prejudice with like some kind spiritual belief that we are right and everyone is wrong.
I want to say that I love my family and I love the sides of my family that are questionable. I think part of ending racism and prejudice etc. Is understanding one another. I’m committed to looking outside of my comfort zone. Being the Woke white guy in a room full of black folks isn’t enough. I don’t want my internal, moral and ideological critique to end their. I did that (have black friends haha) and POC continue to be shot by police and stigma etc, continues to rise. No, I want to follow after my hero Malcolm X who encouraged my people (white activists) years ago to go to our families and our communities and tell them stop killing black folks. I know it sounds simplistic. But, this book Hillbilly Elegy has been an amazing and bright awakening for me.
I’m not going to back down but I am going to use wisdom to understand my audience and who I’m trying to reach. J.D. Vance spoke to me, his experiences resonated with mine. His heart was pure and he has seen a lot. I encourage you to read the book because I couldn’t stop once I started, I shed tears, and I found new hope. A hope that we all need in these times that seem uncertain.
Good luck and I’ll see you around.