When I was five years old, in Kindergarten I had a best friend named Yonnie. She and I were inseparable on the playground, sat next to each other for activities and chose each other as partners on field trips. I loved her so much. We always had so much fun!
Then one day my father came to pick me up from school (usually it was my mother). As I got into the passenger side of the car I noticed my daddy had an open beer container between his legs. The moment I was in he started yelling at me. He seemed so angry and full of hate when he screamed at me: Who’s the little ni**gger?
I was overcome with fear. I had no idea why my daddy was so mad or what he was even talking about, until he continued and said: “The little ni**er I just watched you wallowing with all over the playground!” Taken aback, I answered him with a question: “Yonnie?” Did he mean my friend Yonnie…..the little black girl that was my best friend in the whole wide world?
See, my father was the Grand Dragon of the N.C. Ku Klux Klan, except I didn’t find it out until that moment…or soon afterwards when the alcohol fueled weekend parties started up in my family home. My mother stood idly by, complicit as my father joined a racist organization as a
“leader” of sorts. As Grand Dragon, recruitment and initiation of new members was his primary responsibility to the organization. But he didn’t draw the line at recruiting and initiating. He took things a violent step forward and began loading my mother and I up into the family car to go
terrorize our county.
Once when I was six years old, my father told me to lay down in the back floorboard, while instructing my mother to take the wheel. Then the next thing I heard was a barrage of gunfire. I looked up overcome with both fear and curiosity as I witnessed my father shooting up a car
parked in front of someone’s house. I saw cross burnings, initiations and oath takings. I saw alcoholism destroy my father and my father destroy our family.
I grew up to be a teenage girl filled with rage and hate, but not the kind my father tried to teach me. The traumas I had incurred in childhood, were followed by rape in early adolescence by a 44-year-old man. Abandoned by my mother at age fourteen, I had been left in the clutches of a pedophile. By sixteen I was so filled with pain, anxiety and depression that I acted out of rebellion to pretty much life in general and by age nineteen I found myself in prison.
That’s the beginning of when and where life changed. I was an adult now. I did not want to repeat the vicious cycle of dysfunction that ran so deep through my family. Gradually life tookme further and further away from that horrible upbringing and I truly broke free when I became amother myself. Becoming a mother is what saved me most, in that I had another human being to take care of and think about the well-being of while going forward in life. This was good for me, as I got to experience unconditional love for the very first time, as a mother. My only parenting skill: vowing never to do any of the horrible things I saw my parents do.
I went on in motherhood to adopt a second child who is biracial. My son knows all about his KKK grandfather and he knows that I had a very traumatic childhood. In fact, he knows that was part of what inspired me to become an adoptive parent. Knowing what it was like to be abused and disregarded as a child, I wanted to pay my love forward into a child’s life that needed love.
So what I want you to know is this: Love trumps hate. You can overcome even the worst traumas by embracing love and letting go of hate. You can change tomorrow by breaking free of the cycles of dysfunction that may be weighing down your today. Your life is worth improving and you do not have to accept toxic circumstances as your own, not even from family (especially from family). Family are the people who love you and love is an action, not just a
Jvonne Hubbard is the author of the memoir “White Sheets To Brown Babies” (available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle Ebook). She is a fitness and yoga instructor and mother to two special needs children. Writing is her passion and unity is her goal.