Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Racism and Loneliness

Well, as if I have not had enough crap happen to me, yesterday another thing resurfaced... How would I put it delicately? ah, fuck it - there is no way to put it any other way: my husband's sisters are racists. The younger one has been easy to understand: she disapproved of me from the start. When the tensions finally mounted to the breaking point, she called and left messages on the phone cursing and swearing about her brother accepting " the white bitch that walked into his life" and "forgetting of who he is" and "forgetting that he was a black man." I remember sitting in the living room alone with my 3 week old daughter and having to listen to every message - I did not want to pick up the phone....
After many calls and screams and yells between Joe and his sisters he assured me that "this was not going to happen again". I was not sure how he was going to guarantee that, but I wanted to believe him. On my part, I did the only thing that seemed reasonable - I isolated myself from that woman and her attitudes. I made it known that she was not welcome in my home, and I did not want to expose my children to that kind of attitude ( yes, I specified my children - Joe felt that Mike and Alex should not stop seeing their aunts).
The older sister, who calls herself an artist, was not as abrupt. In the end, though, she turned out to be just as strongly opinionated as the other one. That one hurt more, because her poison was slow and almost untraceable: no, she did not mean to be this or that, but this family is just so special and it has so many things going on and you just have to be one special person to understand its dynamics. No, it's no disrespect meant, but this is a family matter, and I should not be involved. Oh, I should really keep my opinion to myself. Ah, I really do not understand my stepsons - after all, let's name it loud and clear - they are African American, American Indian (the tribes were mentioned - every time in particular order), German, Jewish, and - at the end - Caucasian. It was stated to me - ever so subtly - that I simply was not capable to understand. Why, and who would? A black person would - because of that person's culture... For a second I actually regretted not being black - then - wait a goddamn minute!!! Since when did the skin color was an indication of ability to understand a new, different culture? I never fully voiced my opinion - not that I did not try, but I was always shut up in the process - but I ended up never being comfortable around my "ever so cultural" sister-in-law. Especially when she yelled at me at the top of her lungs for trying to breastfeed my baby in the room with her artwork - I was "being disrespectful and insulting" to her masterpieces by taking care of my daughter's basic need. Her accusation seemed even more awkward because we were surrounded by paintings and statues representing family, and preceded by a lecture on family values. So -real family live dynamics are offensive to the family art? Suddenly all her words, all her works turned into idols - ugly and lifeless representations of her self-importance, nothing more. From that moment on, I was doubting whether she was a real artist - perhaps, I thought, a mere craftswoman who knew techniques well, nothing more. Was there soul in her work? Where?
The conflict finale took place yesterday. After my "incident" of injury - another lovely way to avoid calling it what it is - an attempt on my life - Joe and I had to go to court. The "artist" sister wanted to come too - "for support," as she said. Some support it was. After we left the room (another continuance, nothing new) she started shooting out questions: did you talk to the attorney? Can Alex be released? You need to find out what can be done - Alex is part Native American, so "they" can't even judge him by American laws - he'd have to go before the Tribal Council. When I tried to answer, she waved her hand and said sharply, " I am not talking to you, I am talking to my brother!"
Excuse me???? excuse the FUCK out of me!!!!! I AM HERE TOO!!! that's what I wanted to say, but instead - I lost my breath and could only say "Excuse me?"
She says - "Get out of my face!"
For several seconds I felt like I could not breathe. Joe was saying something about respect- disrespect and how I was to be respected and how she did not have the right to treat me like that... it was obvious to me that she couldn't care less. I turned around and walked away. And Joe stayed - perhaps, to explain to her the error of her ways...
Finally I walked far enough and started to be able to breathe again. I collected my thoughts... What to do, what to do? I wanted to go home. I turned around and walked back - Joe was still talking, and she was still talking over him. None of them turned to me - I did not exist to them... At least that was how it felt. I am really becoming more and more familiar with that feeling...
Finally, I said, "Joe, I need to talk to you - separately." Joe pulled himself away from his sister, and I said, " I need you to take me home - now. If you want to talk to her about this, please do it later." Joe said his quick good byes and took me to the coffee shop - to get over the shock.
Yes, he said all the right things. He said that he was "on my side," that she was wrong, and I was right, and this was "never going to happen again." And then - he walked out of the shop and called his sister on the cell phone. And I was left alone to deal with my feelings...
She said to Joe that "perhaps I would be more comfortable around people of Caucasian descent." I never heard anything more ridiculous...
Again, just like seven years ago, I had to make the decision. All this time they said I was part of their family... or not... I decided - I don't want racists in my family, and I do not have to accept their deformed views!
Of course, Joe keeps telling me he loves me. he says... many things, and they are all the right things. But it's all in the details. while he "explains the error of her ways" to his sister, he actually talks to her, while I stay alone.
I feel alone. Sometimes I want to disconnect the phone - no one calls anyway, except bill collectors. Except my children, I have no one. I do not feel loved. I do not feel protected. I do not feel anything but pain and disappointment. Sometimes I do not want to feel any more.


  1. Hi Katya,

    I'm in southern cal helping my elderly parents so didn't see your tragic post until now--Thursday.

    You and Joseph have had such a tragic year. How terrible that his sisters haven't reached out to you in love. And reverse racism! I didn't know that was still around. They sound like they are stuck in the RapBrown-60's. I suggest they read some MLK.

    Besides, who could not love a Russian who crossstitches and reads Dostovesky;-)?

    I know that words can't heal the tragedy that you and Joseph are drowning in this year.

    But Betsy and I do care about you both and hope that soon (despite the terrible behavior of relatives)
    life for you will find new hope.

    Let's hope that the relatives wake up to compassion and equality.

    We will hold you in the Light.


  2. Hi Daniel,
    Thank you for your comment and your support. I have to say, I have not encountered anything like that in all my life until I met Joe's sisters. I grew up in Russia, and I knew that in our country Jewish were treated "differently," but never to such... obvious extent. One time I saw a group of kids in my class beating up a boy and screaming "Jew!" Apparently, he told them that he was Jewish. He finally covered his head with his hands and screamed, "I am not a Jew!" It was horrible. But the next thing I remember - a teacher came out, pulled the boy from under the pile of children, then lined up his offenders and marched them straight into the classroom. I do not know what she said to them, but they never tried offending anyone like that again, and the boy was never bugged again like that, not in the classroom. In any case, when something like this happened where I lived, the offenders were openly reprimanded, and such behavior was not tolerated...
    Here, on the contrary, things are very "hush-hush," not in the open... Anyway, I am starting to ramble.
    Give us a call when you get back to Santa Maria, maybe we can all get together. Hope your parents are doing well


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