Multicolored rainbow beats dark dirty white
Oct. 28, 2005
I asked my mother-in-law what ethnicity label she marks when filling out various
documents requesting such information.
My mother-in-law is a red-haired Caucasian Kansas-born citizen who married into
the San Diego Hispanic culture. She and my father-in-law reared seven children,
most of whom look Hispanic, yet one son, my husband, looks like the neighbor's
child who just happened to walk into the Abaroa family photo.
I, too, being born of European-Caucasian descent, was told by my mother-in-law
to mark "White." My husband has such an innate pride in his Hispanic heritage
that he's taught each one of our sons to take great honor in his family's name.
He advises them to always mark the Hispanic box when requested. Yet, I feel a
little ordinary and envious of "their" box.
I'm not quite sure why we even have to mark such boxes other than for the
government officials to have something else to count. We as humans unfortunately
label one another without having to do so on paper. I'm in the middle of one of
my most emotional language arts units with my students, The Holocaust. Reading,
writing and discussing the tragedies of 60-plus years ago has touched the hearts
of many of my students. I am teaching them about a time in our history where
labels were used at their worst.
My heart grows warm believing that this generation is going to be the ones who
do, indeed, conquer that label issue. My faith grows strong hoping that White
supremacist thinking will once and for all be eliminated. With communication
technology at its best, certainly we've all grown much smarter in becoming
unified and understanding one another and each culture. Certainly war based on
religion and race will become a silly human practice of the past.
But then I read about and listen to Lynx and Lamb Gaede of Bakersfield, Calif.,
and the widespread success of these adolescent sister singers who rejoice in the
songs of White nationalism. Their audiences love them for their messages of
their German-heritage idealistic thinking of a so-called better society.
These home-schooled girls have been carefully taught by their mother and
estranged father and thus far have espoused their parents' attitudes. Their
goal: to firmly press the White nationalistic way of thinking and living.
April Gaede, the girls' mother, has even decided to move away from Bakersfield
as it was "not White enough."
I invite and even urge Mrs. Gaede to live near me. I would celebrate the
opportunity to introduce her to my Hispanic sons and their White maternal
grandparents. I would treasure having her eat the delicious meals made by my
Basque husband. I would show her pictures of my Sioux sister and our photos with
family and friends from India, Samoa, and Chile. I could take her to school with
me and show her my Asian, Hispanic, White and Black students who are such gifts
But I think what I would relish most, would be to show Mrs. Gaede the Arizona
rainbows after our infamous monsoon storms. I would explain to her that these
are the storms where the one-colored dust is so thick and distracting. It's hard
to see and breathe through the blowing gusts of one-colored debris from heavy
clouds that are all one color - a Dark Dirty White.
Thus, when the cleansing rains do finally come and clear the storm we Arizonans
see the multicolored rainbow with appreciation. The colors of the desert shine
brighter than at any other time.
After living here with me, I think Lynx and Lamb may just have a different song
to sing if we Arizonans could re-teach their storm-filled lyrics that their
parents have so selfishly taught them.
Therefore, The next time I mark an ethnicity label, I think I'll take a few
minutes to reflect on the colors of my family, friends and community and then
look to see if there are any desert rainbows I can look to for beauty.
DeeDee Abaroa is a wife, a mother of four boys and a veteran educator.