Growing up White and Female in a “Racist Utopia”

In case you didn’t know that Oregon was originally set-up to be a “White Utopia,” start by reading this: Oregon was Founded as a Racist Utopia


When I was a little girl looking up at my beloved, but very racist (and sexist) Grandfather, I prayed that those attitudes, that I found so flawed at my tender age, would die out with his generation. After he died I wrote these words about him in my journal to express my conflicting feelings for this man I did love.

He loved rocks and god.
He took care of his family.
Gave freely to needy strangers.
Outside looking in.
Upstanding citizen.

So why does he hate you so?
The color of your skin, the length of your hair?
Weren’t you born of the same god as he, as me?

Reach out my hand now, his face is so cold, pale, and dead.
No lies to tell about you.
Look at me, I see you.
Different eyes, why?
What did he see?
I hope I never see!

His Jesus had long hair?
Why don’t I see?
As he saw.
Just the color of your skin,
The length of your hair?
Do you see me?
Did he?

– Journal entry from January 24, 2000


Even though I loved my grandfather very much, sadly he was my first experience with racism and sexism. I also credit him with my first experiences of a loving (albeit dysfunctional) family and introducing me to a love of rocks and minerals, which I carry with me to this day. In many ways he was everything you think a grandfather should be; he loved us, taught us lots of stuff, and best of all (if you are a kid) he took us to do many fun things, including many rock and mineral hunting trips. It’s safe to say that I pretty much idolized this man when I was a child. But he also left me traumatized in many ways, and his constant hatred of “others” was one of them.

Grandpa used to read the paper every night and was very vocal about how he felt about the n*$$ers, immigrants, and long hairs. I remember questioning him about the long hair thing, “but Grandpa, Jesus had long hair,” which was really all I had any evidence for back then, well before the internet as we know it today. He would explain that Jesus grew up in a time before scissors and barber shops. I was younger than 10 at the time, so he won that round and I don’t recall ever challenging him again.

Over the years, as many teenagers and their grandparents do, we grew apart and when I did see him, I still didn’t feel enough personal power to “rock the boat.”

Sadly he died before I ever got to tell him where he could shove his racist and sexist ideology.

I remember asking my Grandma how she could be married to a man like him, again when I was a preteen, and she said I would understand when I grew up.

No Grandma, I still don’t understand and I hope I never will!!!

As I look around at the world today I am aghast to see that these same racist (and sexist) attitudes that I abhorred as a child, are still just as prevalent as Grandpa ranting over the nightly paper about how it was all “their” fault, meaning either black, brown, hippie, or pretty much anyone he considered to be “other.” From my Facebook* feed alone, much of which stems from the same area my grandfather lived in and I grew up in, I now know there is much work yet to be done in changing these antiquated and uneducated beliefs.

Thankfully I am no longer that confused, scared little girl who couldn’t wrap her mind around hating others because of their skin color, outer appearance, and/or gender. In her place is a grown woman, who has found her voice, and isn’t afraid to use it to call out such bigoted, sexist behavior!

*If you are currently friends with me on FaceBook and we grew up together, then count yourself among the lucky few who have managed to not piss me off with racist and/or sexist attitudes!! Thank you!

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