Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keith Bardwell -- Racist or Misguided?

By now, we've all heard the story of the Louisiana justice of the peace who refused a marriage license to an interracial couple. We've heard the outcry of racism and know the couple is deciding whether they can or should press some type of charges against the justice of the peace for his refusal.

Stories like these touch me directly. Why? Because I have three biracial children. This could have been me that this happened to.

However, I am not angry with this man. In a way, if what he's said about his reasoning is true, I can even understand him.

I've dated men of different races. White men, black men, Hispanic... I had the biggest crush on a Vietnamese boy in middle school. If he actually spoke english, I would have talked to him. Obviously, I see no problem with interracial relationships. But I live in Louisville.

Keith Bardwell states he will not marry an interracial couple because of their offspring and the fact that offspring of these unions are generally not accepted by black or white communities. Well, Mr. Bardwell lives in Louisiana. Deep South. I remember going on vacation in Tennessee and my mom freaking out, worrying someone would do something to me or my children there. We've all heard the stories. The deeper south you go, the more racism you hit, so maybe in his area this is true.

Or maybe he is misguided.

One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was tell my father I was pregnant. I was nineteen, unmarried, and having a baby by a black man my father hadn't even met.
He hadn't met him because my dad didn't want me dating black men. He didn't have anything against black people. In fact, I once saw his high school yearbook and was proud of the fact that every black student in his graduating class had signed it. He was friends with all six or however few number of them were in his graduating class during a time most white students wouldn't dare even talk to them, were in fact wanting them out of "their" school. Not my daddy. He was better than that. He wasn't racist.

It wasn't because of racism that my dad didn't want me to date outside my race. He didn't want me having a biracial child. Why?

I remember a story he told. It was a true story of a biracial child who had to run home from school everyday. The child had to run to avoid the rocks being thrown at him. He had no friends. He was outcast from both the white and the black community. A mixed breed. A "mutt". My dad didn't throw the rocks, but there were more people like the rock throwers than there were people like him. This was his knowledge of what happened when interracial couples had children. This was the knowledge that decided for him he did not want his offspring or the offspring of his offspring suffering such an existence.

So the first thing he asked when I told him I was pregnant by my boyfriend he'd never met was "Is he black or white?"
When I said black, he said "I want to meet him" and walked out. I'll never forget the look on his face or the slump of his shoulders as he did.

He met my boyfriend. He loved my boyfriend. Though we never officially married, he was his "son-in-law" and he never shied away from introducing him as family.

My first child was a girl. She was my father's little princess.


She had my daddy wrapped around her little finger. He adored her. My father, who never allowed sweets before dinner, would come to my house with his coat pockets full of cookies and candies for her. If she wanted it, she got it. Even if I said no.

Some would say my father was racist because he didn't think people should have biracial children. He wasn't. I wish to God he was still here with us because he was the best grandfather my kids could ever have. He loved them all despite their biracial heritage.

Because he wasn't racist. He was misguided. He always thought of the biracial child who got pelted with rocks because of his interracial parentage, and feared it. He'd rather his children not take the chance of suffering that way or having a child who would suffer. Like any parent would.
He lived so in fear of that that he didn't look around him to realize times were different.

Very few times have I had any sort of trouble due to being in an interracial relationship or having biracial children. But this is Louisville. There are many interracial families here.

What is it like in Louisiana? Sadly, racism does still exist. A Mississippi school held its first integrated prom last year! LAST YEAR. 2008. Seriously. There are still small towns where racism is not only rampant, it is ACCEPTED. Most of these towns are in the deep south. I've never been to Louisiana but I've heard enough about it to know interracial couples probably aren't treated quite the same as they are here in Louisville, KY.

I don't think any charges should be pressed against Keith Bardwell. From what I've read or seen in the news, the statements he's made, his thoughts are for the children and he doesn't want to be a willing participant in the existence of a child who may be discriminated against. Is what he did right? No. But I don't believe he had any malicious intent.
I think he is misguided.
Maybe in Louisiana biracial children are treated horribly. I don't know. But refusing a marriage license wouldn't stop biracial children from being born. You don't have to be married to have children, for one thing.
Mr. Bardwell needs to look around and see the changes being made in the world. We have a biracial president for crying out loud! The world is changing, we as people are more accepting of things that were considered completely unacceptable decades ago.
You can not let ignorance of the past stop you from seeing the potential of the future.

And for those screaming "Racism! Racism!" Take a minute to cool your emotions and really think about it. Racism is an ugly thing and Racist is a horrible label to attach to anyone.

I have had black men accuse me of racism when I've turned them down. I have three children with a black man. Anyone with a brain knows I am not racist against black men. Is it right for a black man to accuse me of racism because I don't find him attractive? No, but there are people who just throw that word around like it's nothing.

Let's look at another situation. White male. Black female. He's attracted to her but she is not attracted to him. More than that, she's not attracted to white men, period. Is that racist? No. It's called "preference." But I guarantee you there is someone out there accusing her of racism.

Not dating outside your race does not make you racist. Believing biracial children should not be created due to fear of them being outcast their entire life is not racist. Believing they should not be born because you think different races don't have the RIGHT to be together or because you think one race is superior to another is racist. There is a difference.

Maybe everything this justice of the peace is saying is bull and he is racist, but I haven't seen evidence of that yet. From what I've seen, read, and heard about this particular case, I believe seeing a happy, well-adjusted biracial child is all he needs to see how misguided he has been. That's what it took for my dad.

Mr. Bardwell didn't do anything to keep this couple from getting married, he even suggested another justice of the peace for them to go to. He just didn't want the birth of a child who could be mistreated due to their particular union on his conscience. I just can't get mad with him about that.

It was stupid all the way around but you have to think of his intentions. As ridiculous as they were, his intentions were good. He needs to visit Louisville and see my community. He'll soon see that this era is different than the one he grew up in. It might just change his mind completely.


Danica Avet said...

Oy. Okay. I live in Louisiana, further south than the the parish this incident took place. I was immediately miffed by the implication that Louisiana as a whole is racist. I grew up in a neighborhood where the majority of my playmates were black, worked at an ethnic beauty supply for 6 years, and some of my closest friends were black. I agree with you that this justice of the peace is misguided. The world is changing and I strongly believe that in another few generations, you won't be able to tell the difference between races. At least I hope so.

I've found that the people who play the racist card tend to be the ones who are racist. I'm not saying racism doesn't occur, but I don't think everything comes down to it. I will admit though, that there are a lot of racist people in this area. Sadly enough, it's a learned concept. If their parents were racist, they're usually racist, but the younger generation (those in their 30's, 20's, teens) are beginning to change. I see it plain as day.

Anyway, just thought I'd give my two cents. The minute I saw this article in the news, I groaned. We make great strides every day in this stereotype of 'good ole southerners' but all it takes is one person with misconceptions to ruin it. That's what I find the most troubling about this incident.

Great, thought provoking post.

Crystal-Rain Love said...

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Danica. It's great having the thoughts & opinion of someone in the actual state this took place.
Misconceptions are hard to overcome and I hope my post didn't add to any about Louisiana. Like I said, I've never been to Louisiana. I can only go off what I've "heard" about states farther south and the messages I've seen posted to articles regarding this case (and if everyone believed what they've heard about Kentucky, they'd think I was married to my cousin. LOL!)so I'm thankful you stopped by. ( - ;