The Deep Drone of Unseen Cicadas: Gary’s Story

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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.

Accelerated Christian Education’s Ugly History of Racism

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About the author: Jonny Scaramanga blogs on Accelerated Christian Education and leaving fundamentalism at his blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. He is building a resource on ACE here, and collects survivor stories from students with experience of ACE. Also by Jonny on HA: “How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling.”

I remember staring at the text:

Economics is the major reason that apartheid exists. Some people want to abolish apartheid immediately. That action would certainly alter the situation in South Africa, but would not improve it.

It was 1996; I was 11. Nelson Mandela had been president of South Africa for two years, and apartheid had been officially abolished in South Africa for five. I was not exactly well informed about the situation. I knew it was complicated, and that the country was not exactly without problems. But I also knew that apartheid had been an evil thing that had treated black people as less than human. I suspected my book was written by a racist. I didn’t say anything about it to my parents though. That wasn’t how ACE worked. You just got on with it in silence.

ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) was at one time the leading curriculum for Christian day schools and home schools. It’s still big; ACE doesn’t publish numbers of home schoolers using it, but a claimed 6,000 schools worldwide are on the ACE program. I wasn’t the first person to notice that the curriculum had some ugly things to say about apartheid. In 1993, David J. Dent (writing for the New York Times news service) quoted an ACE book that said:

Although apartheid appears to allow the unfair treatment of blacks, the system has worked well in South Africa … Although white businessmen and developers are guilty of some unfair treatment of blacks, they turned South Africa into a modern industrialized nation, which the poor, uneducated blacks couldn’t have accomplished in several more decades. If more blacks were suddenly given control of the nation, its economy and business, as Mandela wished, they could have destroyed what they have waited and worked so hard for.

This quotation came to light when a black student, Priscila Dickerson, complained about it. Her school’s principal claimed that ACE’s racism was part of the reason the school used it. Dent quotes him as saying, “Racism still exists, and that’s one advantage of using a curriculum like this because we can show students that.”

Not long after I finished the lesson on apartheid, I struck up an email friendship with a disgruntled employee of ACE in Texas. I told him I’d noticed one or two things in my books which seemed kinda racist, and asked him what things were like where he worked. “Put it this way,” the ACE employee replied. “The only black guys working here are the janitors.”

In 1998, the book I’d used was finally updated. Now it said, “God’s Word teaches that no people should ever be wrongfully treated because of their race, since all people are created in God’s image.” That’s a lot better. But it also says this:

Apartheid was excused for several decades because of the advanced industrialization of the nation. However, due to the carnal nature of man, apartheid was also used to exploit the nonvoting black majority.

ACE, Social Studies 1086 (1998 revision)

I’ll let you judge whether I’m being biased about this, but I’m still not happy with that wording. The second sentence says apartheid was “used to exploit” black people because of “the carnal nature of man”. To me this sounds like they’re saying apartheid is not intrinsically exploitative; it was just used that way because men are sinful. In a perfect, non-sinful world, it seems to imply, you could have a system of apartheid were people were kept officially separated but not exploited, and this would be fine. That’s no world I want to live in.

In 2009, ACE again hit the headlines for defending apartheid.

Actually, ACE had worked hard to avoid allegations of racism. In his 1980 book Under Tutors and Governors, ACE’s VP Ronald Johnson devoted an entire chapter to denying that the schools were for whites only. According to Paul F. Parsons’ book Inside America’s Christian Schools, by 1987 ACE had a policy of refusing to sell its curriculum to schools with discriminatory admissions policies. There are one or two explicitly anti-racist statements in the curriculum, too. They hailed Martin Luther King as a Christian hero, and praised the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in American schools (although these blips are not enough to stop ACE from being endorsed by white supremacists).

There had always been a suspicion that private Christian schools in America were associated with racism, fuelled by the fact that their explosion in popularity happened shortly after segregation was outlawed in public schools. In ACE’s case, the suspicion was intensified by the fact that ACE’s founder, Donald Howard, had attended Bob Jones University, at that time a notoriously white supremacist institution. BJU’s chancellor had long preached about how God intended for the races to be separate, and BJU did not accept black students until 1971—as Wikipedia notes, this was eight years after the University of South Carolina and Clemson University were integrated by court order—and even then only if those black students were married. In 1970, institutions with racially discriminatory admissions policies were barred from receiving tax exemptions. BJU filed suit to stop the IRS from removing its tax exemption. Ultimately BJU changed its policy and allowed all black students to enroll, just moments before the Supreme Court decision that made it illegal for colleges to discriminate based on race. Still, BJU didn’t allow students of different ethnicities to date until the year 2000.

I can find no record of Donald Howard or anyone else from ACE ever speaking out against BJU’s racism. Instead, Howard wrote (in his 1979 book, Rebirth of Our Nation):

Regardless of the reactions of the media, the Christian school movement is not racist. Schools are opening in white and black communities alike. Schools are segregated, integrated, multiracial, and as cross-sectioned as any program that’s all-American.

So the schools are integrated and segregated, huh? He seems to be saying that the schools can choose whether to be segregated or not. I wonder if he also thought slavery was a states’ rights issue.

It wasn’t until years after I escaped my ACE ordeal that someone pointed out what had been staring me in the face: ACE’s books depict segregated schools. Most ACE books have cartoons set in a fictional city called Highland. There are two Christian schools (and adjoining churches) in Highland: Highland Christian School, and Harmony Christian School. The students and the staff at Highland are all white. The students and staff at Harmony are all black. According to one of ACE’s books, Social Studies 1029 (page 7), “Harmony is a part of the larger community of Highland.” So it’s a ghetto, then.

In the last five years, ACE has been revising its curriculum entirely, and the new editions feature new cartoons. You’d think that in this new era, when even BJU has publicly apologised for its racist past, ACE would redraw the cartoons with integrated communities.

That is not what they’ve done.

Instead, they’ve added a new, third church-school, called Heartsville. The ethnicity of those in Heartsville is best described as “other”: Some appear to be Asian, and some Latino. Rather than abolishing segregation, ACE has reinforced ethnic divides by splitting its fictional universe into “white”, “black”, and “somewhere in between”.

I feel lucky that I noticed ACE’s stance on apartheid was ugly. Because I recognised it was racist, I could choose to reject it, although I worried about other students who might not. I’m much more bothered about the page-and-a-half of casual racism that introduces ACE’s study of Asia, because I only noticed it when I re-read it last year. I never noticed at the time, which means I thought this was OK (or I just didn’t bother reading it, which is completely possible given that you can complete ACE work just by skimming the text to find the missing word to write on the blank):

Michael tried to fight his panic as he raced from place to place, searching vainly for something familiar.

In desperation, Michael watched the people passing him on the street, but their physical appearance provided him no comfort. Their skin was light brown, their hair was dark and straight, and the inner fold of their eyelids made their eyes seem to slant.

If you were suddenly transported to a village like the one in which Michael found himself, how would you react? Far Eastern cultures, languages, and religions seem alien to most Europeans and Americans. Oriental people appear mysterious and inscrutable, and their religions seem strange. Do these people have anything in common with European or American Judeo-Christian heritage and beliefs?

ACE, Social Studies 1106 (Geography), 2002 revision.

People I trusted gave me this as a schoolbook, and none of them ever commented on it to me. Either they too thought it was OK, or they didn’t read it. And whichever one it is, it’s inexcusable coming from people whose job was to teach me.

I don’t think ACE would accept that their books are racist, and I don’t think they intend to be. The newest books have pictures of a more ethnically diverse group of people than the old ones, and I even found two cartoons (TWO!) where black children are pictured in the same classroom as white ones. I don’t think ACE’s authors are hateful; they’re just ignorant. But when education is your business, ignorance is no excuse.

Every year, ACE holds regional and international student conventions. Students from ACE schools and home schools around the world come together to compete in various events, from athletics to preaching. As you’d expect from a fundamentalist organisation, the dress code is very strict.

And it has different acceptable hairstyles for black boys and white boys.

If you’re a white boy, you can have hair any length as long as it is off your collar and above your ears. If you’re black, though, your hair can’t be longer than one inch.

Oh, it doesn’t say this is a racially discriminatory policy. The exact wording is “Extra curly or afro hair is not to exceed one inch in length”. But the fact that this is also going to affect a small minority of white students doesn’t change the fact that this policy discriminates against black boys. While most white boys’ hair is neat and appropriate at three inches, a black boy’s natural hair at the same length is somehow offensive and indecent. And if you turn up with hair that doesn’t fit the dress code, you’ll be turned away: “Those who require a haircut will not be permitted to register until they have located a barber and complied with the Student Convention standards.”

ACE’s ugly history of racism seems to still be alive and well.