Saturday, August 06, 2005

Race Relations in the Bayou

Alligator Bayou near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

As if my flat isn't in a rural enough area, I've had to traverse even deeper into some sparsely populated parts of Louisiana lately. One of my brothers and his wife are due to have their first baby in a few weeks. So, we had to go out to Des Allemands for the baby shower over the weekend. VanGoghGirl, my mom, and I have been looking forward to it for awhile. The German was not but I dragged him along anyway. I've been trying to get to the bottom of why he's so reluctant about going out there but he isn't making it easy.

I think that racism has a lot to do with it. He's told me about how growing up bi-racial wasn't very easy in this part of Louisiana. Imagine being raised by a mother who is very educated and a different color from you in a place where neither is common to see. The fact that she is so completely free from the petty hatred that is so common here probably made it worse because he got to see that being racist is a choice that people make. Even now he regularly comes home with stories of how he's been called various slurs when driving through the more homogeneous areas surrounding our city. I think that visiting Des Allemands bothers him because it reminds him of those places.

The German and I haven't actually had any bad experiences in Des Allemands the few times that we've visited. However, my pregnant sister-in-law is bi-racial as well and she's talked about how much prejudice she witnessed as a child. I don't think she ever really found herself the intended victim of racism but she says she felt it all the same whenever she saw it in action. I wonder what kept her from being the target of racism despite living in an area where it's so pervasive.

She really does look just like the rest of her Cajun family members despite the fact that she's half Puerto-Rican. But I'm not sure if that would have caused her to see more racism or less. People out there who looked at her wouldn't have known they were talking to someone who was half-Hispanic because, thanks to their Cajun heritage, almost everyone is a bit swarthy. So a racial slur isn't likely the first thing some one would use if they wanted to insult her. However, since she isn't readily identifiable as "bi-racial", those who didn't know about her Hispanic ancestry probably wouldn't realize that she might take personally the racism that she witnessed them inflict on others.

My sister-in-law has decided to name the baby "Jazmine-Marie". I'm really glad that everyone is so crazy about this baby already. Almost everyone in her family has accepted and welcomed my brother despite the ethnic differences between their family and ours. Jazmine-Marie's great-great-grandmother is really looking forward to meeting her and so am I.

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