What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Becky.

Photo by: Mayur Gala 

Prior to meeting my mom in 1990 in an all black church in the heart of Silicon Valley, my stepfather was a member of the KKK.. This is not about the role as a member but about the effects of his racist mentality on my youth.

If you are not familiar with the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), it was a movement of white supremacy that caused great harm to individuals that were not white. They would dress in a white sheet like a ghost and would beat, kill anyone that was different in color.

My first crush in 7th grade was Eric.  Eric was very kind, played sports and was ever so dreamy.
My stepsister (who was two years younger) and I were always giggling and laughing about something. This time it was boys and who was going with whom. My stepdad was eager to find out why we were making so much noise. Is laughing noise? To some folks it is but others a world without laughter is LONELY. He said, “tell me about this boy.” Still laughing and giddy as ever I described Eric. Oh he is tall, kind, talks to me, has black hair and did I mention knows my name and uses it… SWOON…

Two weeks later I pointed out this stud at pickup. I didn’t think to tell my stepfather that Eric was black. Who cares what color his skin is?  He was a hottie.
After arriving home I didn’t have time to put my backpack away. Before I knew it, I heard my stepdad say, “Do you know what happens to people like you?”. He pulled out his belt and gave me a few lashings. Shocked I had no idea what has happening or what reason. Clueless yes… As every parent hears from their teenager at some point, “What did I do?” A few more lashings because of the interpretation of sarcasm. (NOTE to Parents sometimes your teenager doesn’t know)
I was given a history lesson about the KKK and why whites were not allowed to swoon over blacks. The reason explained to me was that if I was to be intimate with a black man I would end up with a mixed child before the 9th grade and be on welfare. Okay….

After this history lesson followed by lashings, my robotic words uttered, “No, I don’t like so and so anymore.” My heart and spirit were crushed.

Spring fever came along and I crushed hard on a stoner dude.  The boy with the longest blonde hair, flannels, high-tops, was a real rocker (yes, it was the late 80’s). Giddy I was laughing again about my crush with my stepsister. This time I felt safe to like him because he was white. Nope.
According to the stepdad he just wanted to have sex and I was not like him. As an 8th grader, I was excited if he knew my name. Same procedure as last time. Lashings until I gave up the idea that he as cute and cool and didn’t like him anymore.

How many of you had a crush?
I bet everyone of you loved the feeling of having a crush. I always assumed it was okay to have a crush. The whole idea about junior high school and high school was to be giddy about boys and vice versa. Just like George Strait’s song, “Check Yes or No” and not have someone rip up the note before you even received it.

By high school, I was so scared of the older kids and just hoped I looked good enough or had cool friends. As I entered freshman year of high school, the coolest guy in 10th grade sent his buddies over to me.
“Hey Terrance likes you.”
At the time I thought the boys were joking. Actually, I hoped it was only a rumor or a joke.
Yes, Terrence was an African American with some cool gold teeth bling and the Run DMC look going on. I remember clearly that I thought, “Please, No, No, NO, NOT ME!!!
If I recall correctly I went up to him, chatted and asked him “Why me? Why do you want to go around with me…. ?”  I forgot what he said but I pointed him in the direction of another girl that drooled over him.

I was safe and he had a girlfriend – sort of a win-win situation but it was a close call.

Really, why would any kid have to feel like that? Does your child feel like they need to not like someone because of fear? The only fear maybe should be the fear that the crush doesn’t like them.

In my mind, I figured I would not rock the boat and, instead, would crush on someone handsome and safe.  Everyone has a celebrity crush.  My celebrity crush was Elvis. Yes, his birthday so happens to be in January. Elvis Presley – the King of Rock ‘n Roll.  Man, he was so hot, good looking, and that man could shake, sing and kiss. Well, of course……not me, but I always pretended I was his leading lady. I know some of you had that same crush on him too.

This past October, I was able to visit Graceland and it was a dream come true. Not only because he was my first crush, but he had soul. Yes, I cried at seeing his grave and love his long white sofa and those curtains. However, I don’t need that white sofa. See the only souvenir I needed was a picture with Elvis.. Swoon…

What is the moral of the story….
Parents let your kids have crushes on real living people. Youth is for those “He loves me, He loves me not.” times and I can’t wait to hear those words from my three girls, laughing about who they like this week.

So, what happened to my KKK-supporting stepfather?  Well….he was sent to prison and my mom divorced him.  
Did these lashings scar me to the point of being racist?  No.  I am an advocate for underrepresented demographics and love everyone/embrace everyone.