Thursday, May 26, 2011

MMM: Amy Plum

Thanks, Ashley, for inviting me to guest post on Books Obsession. Before writing Die For Me, I was really into essay-writing. This is one that I wrote in January, 2009, soon after Obama was elected president and the topic of race and racism was at the forefront of my thoughts. I hope you and your readers enjoy it!

The Black Boy Talk

by Amy Plum, author of Die For Me

When my sister and I were teenagers--in 1980s Birmingham, Alabama--she developed a crush on a guy that she met at church. Hearing her speak of him at home, my father and mother decided it was time to give us The Talk. The Black Boy Talk.

They sat us down and explained that they weren't racist. But that they wanted us to understand what would happen if we dated a black boy. People would shun us. Society would reject us. Life would be extremely difficult. And let's say things progressed and we got married and had kids. Our children would be outcasts. They wouldn't fit into white society, and they wouldn't fit into black.

And what about spending holidays with the guy's family? Their customs are different and their beliefs aren't the same as ours. We would be like a foreigner in their home, and they in ours. They're just too different from us. That's the way it is, they concluded. However the choice was up to us.

I don't know if it was because of The Talk, or if the boy had just been a passing fancy, but nothing ever came of my sister's crush. And though I never had the opportunity to date a black guy, my rejection of my parent's anti-diversity stance was manifested by the next best thing:

I brought home a dark-skinned French atheist whose didn't even speak my own language.

At the time, Laurent's English was so basic that he couldn't understand my father's questions about his relationship with “the Lord”. Poor Laurent's response was something like, “I am God. You are God.” Which confused my father enough to stop the grilling and settle for giving Laurent a “Four Spiritual Laws” pamphlet.

I hadn't thought of the Black Boy Talk for years, and then all of a sudden when Obama was elected, the story popped back into my consciousness and I've been thinking about it ever since. Some people would say my parent's attitude was a generational thing. I think it was plain old racist.

But, as for me, I cherish the diversity in my new family. Sometimes the cultural and linguistic differences lead to miscommunication between me and my Frenchman. In fact, misunderstandings happen on a pretty regular basis.

But more frequently, I find myself coming across a saying or a custom that I haven't experienced before, and marveling about how this one tiny thing had some contribution, however minor, to making my husband who he is. And that that same word or gesture will also become a part of my half-American half-French children's psyches. Just as much as the tornado drills and MoonPies and “yes ma'ams” of my childhood went into creating who I am today. And just as much as the Black Boy Talk opened my eyes and resulted in the opposite of what my parents wanted: a craving for diversity.

How can anyone fear diversity? It's the sugar that makes life sweeter. It's the broom that sweeps the cobwebs from our minds. It's the key to broadening our experience.

It's the dark stranger who sweeps us off our feet and offers us the chance for a fuller, more interesting life. Who would be dumb enough to turn down a date with him?

Absolutely loved what you had to say, Amy. Thank you!

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  1. Great post! I definitely know what Amy means by the generational vs. racist thing... since that's something I struggle with when talking to my extremely conservative grandparents. But diversity just makes LIFE more exciting, and I love living in a cultural mish-mash. Wonder how that relationship worked though if Amy didn't speak French...? (Maybe that's true love.) :)

  2. Oops, I guess it's the other way around. Amy spoke French but Laurent didn't speak English. xD


Thanks, I love what you have to say!