The Deep Drone of Unseen Cicadas: Gary’s Story

race

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gary” is a pseudonym. Also by Gary on HA: “Hurts Me More Than You: Gary’s Story”.

I sit here thinking, How do I talk about something like Homeschooling and Race? How do I talk about something that was both rarely spoken of and yet a constant background noise? Like the deep drone of unseen Cicadas that drowns out all other nighttime sounds?

It’s there. It’s deafening.

But you have to search in the underbrush with a headlamp to find the source. 

Race was not a topic I heard often spoken on as a child. Not by the pastors of churches we visited. Not by my parents. Not by the other homeschooling families we interacted with in Washington, Idaho and Montana. It simply was not spoken about.

And by that I mean there were no conversations. If different races were mentioned at all it was in generally neutral to negative terms, but not in an overt way.

As a child I never heard my parents use racial slurs. I never heard pastors or other homeschoolers use racial slurs. Not even a single time. Not once that I recall.

But there was a reason for that:

Other races simply didn’t exist in our closed Homeschool world.

We were from a county that literally had three African American residents. Three. In the whole county. The churches we went to, in the first eighteen years of my life, spanning three states, had not a single, solitary adult member of any other race than white European. None. None at all.

Before the age of eighteen I had met and spoken to exactly five persons of different race than my own, and I thought nothing of this fact. It was simply how things were.

It wasn’t till I was older, when I went off to University at a prominent Fundamentalist University that I started to realize that the lack of diversity in my childhood had not been by chance.

Far from it, it had been by intentional design.

I realized, like a flash of lighting, that one of the key reasons I had been homeschooled for twelve years was to keep me, but more specifically my sisters, apart from other races. But the revelation didn’t stop there. I came to understand that this was one of the key reasons behind the homeschooling of nearly everyone I had grown up knowing.

I learned that many of the families in our homeschool circles had moved out west in the 60’s and 70’s to “escape” integration in the east and south. It was simple reasoning on their part, “other races moving in to our neighborhoods? Fine, we’ll go somewhere there are no other races, as in Montana, Washington and Idaho.” (The lack of diversity was far more marked in these states in the 60’s and 70′ than it is today.)

I found out that many in my social circle growing up were not just motivated by racist ideologies to move west and homeschool, but were actually involved, in at least two cases, deeply involved, in actual racist organizations such as the Aryan Brotherhood.

My eyes were opened to the reality that the reason there had been no other races represented in the churches we had attended was not just because of demographics. It was because these churches were pastored by men who had graduated from Universities that taught, even up till year 2000, that “race-mixing” would bring on the actual rise of the anti-Christ.

Other races were not welcome in churches pastored by men from these Universities……and they knew it.

Like I say: Racism was everywhere — but hidden just under the surface. 

After all, how can you see someone react in a negative way to a person of another race if you never even encounter, in any extended way, peoples of other races?

It was one of the driving forces for many of the people I knew for even living in the states they lived in. It certainly was one of the reasons why many of my friends were homeschooled. Not that their parents were afraid their children would have to interact with other races in public school. No, their parents had eliminated that possibility by moving to some of the least diverse places in the Unites States. But they also were homeschooled, in part, because their parents actively and intentionally did not want their children learning about racial equality and other race issues in public schools.

I found all this out later of course. These reasons were never spoken of out loud to us children. After all, why discuss racial issues when there simply are no other races in your child’s life?

Turns out I never heard my parents use racial slurs because we never encountered many members of other races, not because my parents were not more than ready to say those things. Racism it turns out, was the foundation that held up the house, under ground, unseen, largely silent, but there alright, holding up the structure that was my homeschooling experience.

I saw the light when I attended University, and realized that the place that had printed my homeschool textbooks was a place founded, funded and expanded by racist teachings.

I saw the light when my sister was asked out by a man of an other race and my parents displayed an immediate, hysterical and frightening reaction to this occurrence.

I saw the light when we elected Barack Obama as the U.S. President and saw the outpouring of paranoid hatred from every corner of my social circle.

I saw the light when more people of other races started to move into the Caucasian stronghold that was northern Washington, Montana and Idaho, thus providing ample opportunity for those I knew to exhibit racist slurs, ideologies, thought patterns and racial profiling.

I saw it then alright. In all its festering, racist ugliness.

Racial slurs. Bigoted attitudes. Voicing of the real sentiments that led to my family being homeschooled, as well as that of many of my childhood friends. My Facebook feed looks like an exercise in what not to do: Post after post of subtle, and not so subtle, racist bigotry.

I can’t scroll more than a few inches without seeing some post about how our “Muslim President” is pushing “The Gay Agenda” and is “building concentration camps for Christians.” Some of these posts come from my own parents, and most of the others come from the parents of the other homeschooled children I grew up with.

By my estimation at least 75% of the “Homeschool Parents” I knew growing up are die-hard racists.

Turns out that when our parents told us they were homeschooling us to “protect” us, it was to “protect us” from integration. Often times it seemed it was particularly to “protect” my sisters (and other girls) from interacting with the males of other races.

Fifteen years after I finished 12 years of homeschooling, I have reached several conclusions about my homeschool experience in regards to race and racism:

(1) I have come to the conclusion that the “Courtship” model has direct ties to racism, at least in the circles I traveled in.

After all, how can your daughter marry someone of another race if you get to pick her husband? Simple, she can’t. “Problem” solved. I know for a fact that this was part of the reason my parents considered “courtship” for my sisters, and a good part of the reason my parents sent my sisters to a University that (as of that time) did not allow inter-racial dating.

(2) I have come to the conclusion, based on actual conversations with some of the parents involved, including my own, that a good portion of the reason they homeschooled at all was to keep us children separate from other races.

They homeschooled us to propagate specific racist teachings (no interracial marriage etc.) through us. If we were public schooled our minds might be polluted with all that “racial equality” junk, so, homeschooled it is.

(3) I have come to the conclusion a good deal of the time “Homeschooling” is done based off fear.

Fear of other races. Fear of LGBTQ individuals. Fear of other ideologies. Fear of “losing” your children to a culture different than your own. Fear that your children will grow up to be human beings with lives and minds of their own. Fear that after 18 years you won’t be able to control your children anymore, so the only thing to do is to brainwash them into such total submission that they will remain voluntarily under your control after reaching legal adulthood.

And after all this I tell you I am not against homeschooling.

I’m not.

I think that given the right mind-set and reasons, homeschooling may be, in some cases, the very best thing for some children.

But sadly, in my personal experience, homeschooling was used specifically as a tool to isolate myself and my siblings, as well as many of the homeschool children I grew up with, from other races. It was used as the one sure way to make sure my sisters and other girls would never meet, much less attempt to date or marry, anyone of a different race.

Homeschooling was seen as a fail-safe way to insure your children would end up exactly as you intended, in every facet of their lives, attitudes about other races included.

The truth is that no matter how hard you try to isolate and control your children, no matter how pure the strain of brainwashing, no matter how severe  the isolation, at some point children grow up. They discover other ways of thinking and decide, ultimately, what is best for them, regardless of your decades of efforts to prevent that very thing from happening.

They may just decide that every single shred of the racist mindset you raised them with is false and try to cleanse it from their minds like the garbage that it is.

I am living proof of this possibility.

Adult Children of the Quiverfull Movement on Race

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 10, 2012. This post is part of Libby Anne’s “Raised Quiverfull” interview series, where young adults from families influenced by the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements answer questions about their upbringing. 

Q: What role did race play in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull community in which you grew up? Were there any black or hispanic families? Were they treated differently?

Joe:

In the church I grew up in, there was never a non-white member – ever.  The church was not overtly racist, though they had issues with illegal immigration, but the services were very boring and would not have fit into a culture different from a bunch of white dudes and one off key old lady singing How Great Thou Art from a hymnal, accompanied by a piano, then sitting through a two hour sermon that sounded the same every Sunday.  But I attended a public grade school and high school where it was proudly noted that we had over 57 different nationalities represented.  My best friends throughout my school years were all African America, Asian, and American Indian.

Latebloomer:

The homeschooling community was extremely white, but we did know several black and Hispanic homeschooling families, with varying levels of involvement in CP/Q.  I don’t remember noticing any racism at the time.  The cold-shoulder treatment seemed to be saved for families that were not fully committed to homeschooling, regardless of race.

Libby Anne:

The families we associated with were all white. I honestly can’t think of any minority Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull families – or even any minority families in our homeschool groups (which included ordinary conservative Christian families in addition to those who followed the teachings of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull). That said, my parents were emphatically anti-racist, and if a black Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family had come into our community I don’t think it would have been a problem for them at all.

Lisa:

While my parents said that all human beings were perfectly made by God and equal, my Dad didn’t like us mixing with the black families. There were two families we had closer contact with, and my parents were very friendly, but we weren’t allowed to play with them. I think that was because my Dad didn’t want us to consider one of them as a possible spouse. He was against interracial marriage. I remember a nice lady who was married to a Mexican, she was treated differently, as were their son. Not that anybody said anything, but she was never invited and people avoided talking to her too much.

Mattie:

Where we lived in CA was a very rural area, so there were mostly white, blue-collar folks in our homeschool group. There were a lot of Hispanics in our church, but we were the only homeschoolers.

When we moved to VA, there was a lot more diversity in the homeschooling community, but those adhering to the ideas of the Quiverfull movement were primarily white and upper-middle class. People didn’t treat each other differently and race was pretty much irrelevant.

Melissa:

I do not remember knowing anyone who was black. I met a few mixed white/Hispanic families in the community. I don’t think race was a huge issue in my family in particular, my dad had attended many black gospel churches as a child, and had a sort of nostalgic affection for black spirituality. We were around people in the homeschool movement who felt that the confederacy should have won the civil war and that the loss of that war had led to a major downslide in Christianity in America. I was never 100% clear on what my parents’ position was in that regard.

Sarah:

I had no racially diverse acquaintances in my childhood, but to be fair, I didn’t really have many acquaintances at all. For a brief time I was friends with a Hispanic girl down the street, but I wasn’t allowed to go to her house, so she soon got bored of me. My dad went to an African American Baptist church in Chicago when he was a kid, and he always spoke fondly of his memories there. We never really discussed race, but I remember my dad telling me that interracial marriage was not a sin. It wasn’t until my late teens that I had any interaction with people outside my race or religion. It took me a long time to learn how to interact comfortably with diverse groups of people. I’ve always felt that that was one of the major flaws in my upbringing.

Sierra:

My church was solidly multiracial. Black families were not treated any differently from white families, as far as I could tell. The church did fetishize the Spanish language and would commonly ask Hispanic men to sing praise songs in Spanish before the service. We also attracted a Korean mother and daughter. The main difference between white and nonwhite believers in my church was homeschooling. Racial minorities did not homeschool, probably for economic reasons. My church regarded racial diversity as a positive sign that God’s Word was universal, but maintained a strict policy against interracial marriage.

Tricia:

White, middle class Protestants were we all. It was a very segregated world. I never even had a black or Hispanic friend growing up, and there were no opportunities to cultivate such a friendship.  I definitely feel like I missed out in that regard. Exposure to other groups and cultures can be so enriching, and I had very little of that. The church I attend now is racially and culturally diverse, and coincidentally so is the neighborhood I currently live in, and this exposure to a wider world has been like a breath of fresh air, even though I can have a difficult time connecting– mostly because I don’t know how. It’s getting easier with time, though.

How We Removed Anything That Might Make America Look Less Godly: Liz’s Story

race

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Liz” is a pseudonym.

I don’t know if my story about race is what you are looking for. I am a white southerner and have never had a close friend of another race.

In my small circle of homeschoolers and other like-minded, ultra-conservative Christians, I don’t think I ever saw a person of another race.  

Oh, except for adopted children. They were the only exception. I distinctly remember a family coming to our church and two of the children were biracial.  I can’t remember if anything specific was said, but I had the impression that this was somehow shameful.  They weren’t adopted, I guess that makes a difference.

What I distinctly remember is my dad giving us talks about the problems with interracial dating/marriage.  He would say that he didn’t have a problem with it and had even dated a black girl once, but that the cultural differences were so large that he felt it did not make for a good marriage.  Now that I think about it, I find it odd and slightly laughable that the only racial conversations we ever had were focused on the civil war or marriage. I’m not even sure why he discussed this with us since he had to “approve” anyone who wanted to date us anyway. He could have easily weeded out anyone of an “inappropriate race.”

The idea of having just a friendship with someone of a different race was never even discussed.

My schooling was very clear on a few key facts about race.  Let me preface this by saying, this is not what I now believe at all, but it is what I was taught:

  • One, the civil war was not about slavery, it was only about states’ rights.

Slaves were actually treated very well and many were not capable of caring for themselves anyway so their white masters were just benevolent care takers.  Slavery would have slowly ended on its own if Abraham Lincoln had just respected the states and stayed out of it.  I remember reading one of the American Girl books about Abby (a black slave girl) and being disgusted that it was so “historically inaccurate” in its portrayal of her life as a slave.

Needless to say, I am ashamed of many things I believed as a child/teenager but I was only believing what I was taught.  

  • The other key point that was drilled into my head about race was that even though slavery was wrong, the civil war was a long time ago and it was high time that black people just let it go.

Of course us calling everyone North of the Mason Dixon line a Yankee wasn’t something we should all let go of. I did not know anything about the civil rights movement.  It was not until I was an adult in college that I realized many of the horrible things that had happened had occurred in the lifetimes of my classmates’ parents and grandparents, not over a 100 years before. Other things had occurred in my own lifetime.

I was shocked and horrified.

No wonder these things hadn’t just been “let go” (as if even the years of slavery should be “let go” anyway no matter how many years have passed). I had been taught for years that black people were entitled and unforgiving (again the irony of southerners still holding quite the grudge against the entire northern half of the country is not lost on me).

It only took a semester of history in college for me to realize how biased and simply wrong my education had been. I had never read a real history book (The Light and the Glory anyone?)  I soaked in every bit of my history classes and went on my own research binges.  I found that there had been terrible race riots in my own rather small hometown–they even made my college textbook.

This was not the first time I was disillusioned with my homeschool education, but it is probably the deficiency I am most ashamed of.  

  • The other race issue that was often discussed in my border state, was all of the “illegals”.

It was made clear that it had nothing to do with their race, only that they were coming into the country illegally.  However, when a white woman came to our church who had also fled her country into the U.S. illegally, the church gave her financial support to continue her fight to stay in the country.  Any person who looked hispanic was considered an illegal alien until proven otherwise.  Not to say this was or is a homeschooling phenomenon. I am a public school teacher and heard a conference between middle school girls about another girl they were purposefully ostracizing because they believed her family was “illegal”.  I have had more than one class discussion about the use of racial slurs in my classroom.

One thing that continues to baffle me is that my parents are very intelligent people.

They both had a public education, which regardless of how good or bad at the very least covered the Jim Crow era. They lived through the civil rights movement. My dad has a college degree and my mom attended 3 years of college.

Where in all of that did they become so brainwashed by the religious and homeschool leaders to think it was okay to simply ignore that part of our history?

Why was it considered right and okay to gloss over or completely remove anything that might make America look less godly or right?  

I also realize that it is likely they were also taught a different but highly biased version of that point in our history (they graduated in the early 70s). But then again, isn’t it the obligation of an educator to overcome their biases, learn, and teach the truth?

I certainly consider it so as a teacher myself — and I am not claiming or trying to be the god-ordained teacher of every subject my children will study.