Ashley Miller lost her father to racism.

Ashley Miller over at freethoughtblogs has one of the most heart-rending blogs I’ve read this year.  You see, Ashley is dating a black man.  He’s a good man; he’s kind, smart, and has his shit together.  While most parents fear their daughter will come home with a guy in cut off shorts and smoking a cigarette, Ashley has landed the type of guy who should make any parent exhale with relief.  And her father likely would’ve done just that…if he were white.

But his skin is not white, and so Ashley’s father has disowned her.

I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone, your father has forbidden me from seeing you in person.  I’m sorry, he just cannot support your lifestyle anymore, he will not be speaking to you again, he asked me to tell you.

That was my stepmother, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after she discovered I was dating someone.  Someone who was not white.  Someone who was black.  Someone who was sitting in the next room and knew what the phone call was going to be about before it even started.

Your father wants you to know that he still loves you.  But you’ve gone too far.

She won’t say the reason.  She won’t acknowledge that it is a race thing.  Like not saying “because he’s black” makes it not racist.

Your lifestyle is just not OK with him, he has bent as much as he will bend.  He has bent so much and you haven’t bent at all.

I insist on clarification, “My lifestyle?”

Yes.  Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix.  It was the final straw.  He loves you, he just doesn’t like you.

“So, this is entirely because he’s black?”

I told him it didn’t matter to you, that all you cared about was that someone didn’t believe in God and nothing else.  But he just can’t bend anymore. You knew this would be his reaction.

I was admittedly worried he’d disapprove, but then he’d meet the boyfriend and like him and it would be fine.  Also, my boyfriend isn’t even atheist.

We’re not telling you what to do.  If you love him, you should be with him.  But I’m going to stand by my husband, just as you some day, if you get married, will stand by yours.  We both love you, he’s just not going to talk to you.  Maybe, in a long time, he might change his mind, but I don’t think so. I think it was too much.

Ashley sums it up beautifully.  I wish I could just quote the whole post, but this says it all.

I could have pointed out all the things that I haven’t done to be a disappointment to him.  I mean, yes, I’m a liberal who supports equality, but I just keep making a list in my head of all these other things I could have done that would have been upsetting to him*:

  • I have never been a drug addict
  • I have never been a drunk or alcoholic
  • I have never killed anyone
  • I have never been arrested
  • I have never been a sex worker
  • I have never gone through a rebellious phase
  • I have never gotten pregnant out of wedlock
  • I have never failed school

I am, in general, pretty much the opposite of a fuck up, and I sit here and wonder… would my father like me better if I’d gotten drunk and run someone over and been sent to jail and dropped out of school… and I think the answer is yes and I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t know how one goes about coping with these things.  I have a very supportive family, friends, and boyfriend.  And Dad and I were never super close.  And, perhaps there were things I could have done better, but none of them change the fact that my dad is the kind of person who would disown their only child for dating “out of race”.

And I know some will say that I’m better to be rid of him, and maybe they’re right.  Maybe it’s a relief to just be able to be myself without that particular Sword of Damocles hanging over my head, but he’s my dad.  And I’m his only kid.  Well, not anymore I guess.

I guess it’s sort of like a divorce. I don’t even think I have any insight to add to this other than the following: This still happens in 2012 in the United States.

What do you say to someone who just lost their father by intention, rather than by fate?  We do not live in a universe that cares about justice, otherwise a father-daughter relationship would never die while racism continues to live.  It’s a good thing that humans do sometimes care about justice, because the cosmos sure as shit doesn’t.

I know it’s not the same, Ashley, but there are thousands who accept you and love you for everything that you are, rather than by some arbitrary, random association.  How many people need to love a person in that way to make up for the loss of a parent’s love?  I don’t know, but I hope, in this case, that we can find out.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • James-S

    Never been close to either of my parents. My wife’s natural father was a heroin addict when he was younger, and essentially abandoned her. Her mother ended up marrying an abusive (jerk).
    All in all, if there isn’t really much of a relationship there to begin with… meh. That says far more about the parent than anything else. If they want to be horrible people, they are welcome to do that, and we are welcome to ignore them.
    Don’t mourn the loss of a relationship that was probably never all that important/worthy. Life is long, but too short for worrying about such things.

  • TerranRich

    If my father were like that, *I* would be the one disowning him It’s ridiculous that this shit still exists in the 21st century. Unreal.

  • General Panic

    You have another chance for a fulfilling parent-child relationship, and that is of course when you are the parent. Take some solace in the fact that you can help the world get over this kind of blind ignorance, hate, and fear, by teaching your child to be accepting of people of all races/lifestyles/situations. Of course, I strongly suspect you will already do this, but take comfort in it while you are teaching your child and doing your part to heal the human race.

  • smrnda

    The step-mother defending the father is utterly disgusting because by explaining that it’s ‘just the way he was raised’ or whatever she’s implying that prejudice against Black people is somehow defensible, and that it’s an issue where there’s room to see both side (her discussion of how he’s ‘bent all he can’ and ‘you haven’t bent at all,’ implying that this is an issue where both sides have an equal duty to compromise, not one where one person is totally wrong.)

    The stand by your husband line is a bunch of crap. If your husband is in the wrong, you shouldn’t stand by him. If your husband has repulsive opinions you should see about getting rid of him and getting one with a better attitude. Standing by a person when they are wrong is something to be ashamed of, not something to brag about.

    • Brea Plum

      Well written, smrnda. Especially your comment about “standing by” your spouse. Marriage does not deprive a person of their free will, their independent thought, or their responsibilities to their children, their community and the world they live in. She is not “standing by” her husband, she is condoning and effectively reinforcing his bigotry. In other words, she is a bigot without the courage to admit it, to herself or anyone else.

      • smrnda

        She might also be a person with a ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality where she’s unwilling to ‘take sides’ or ‘get into an argument’ which just means that, in the end, she ends up on the wrong side because in some cases, you cannot and should not be neutral. So it could be bigotry, or it could just be that she’s absolutely gutless.

  • Jasper

    Not that any of these “Well this is what I would do…” comments help her any, but I’d have to concur. I’m with Jen Peeples – if you act like family, you are, and if you don’t, you’re not.

    I’d sever ties instantaneously and permanently.

  • iknklast

    “What do you say to someone who just lost their father by intention, rather than by fate”

    I lost my grandparents. I moved out of an abusive home into the spare room in my fiance’s apartment. We weren’t married yet, and didn’t get married for about 6 months. My grandfather’s religion said this was evil; therefore, it was evil. Better I stay home and get broken bones than live safe and sound with someone who didn’t abuse me, who treated me like a human being and not a piece of property.

  • Silent Service

    The sad thing is, you cannot make people see things diffeerently when they do not what too. Ashley’s father believes what he believes and he won’t change until he’s willing to change. We can hope that he wakes up and realizes how silly this is, but I doubt it.

  • Azkyroth

    …huh, de ja vu. O.o

  • RuQu

    To quote the Greek Stoic Epictetus:

    “Remember, it is not he who reviles you or strikes you, who insults you, but it is your opinion about these things as being insulting. When a man irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion that has irritated you.”

    To paraphrase the conclusion of that quote: It is your choice to be offended or not, to be insulted or not. Choose to not focus on the appearances (my father insulted me) but instead on the reality (I choose to be insulted by my father’s judgment of my actions) and you can more easily master your feelings.

    In this case, by shifting the focus and realizing that you are choosing to be insulted by his judgment, you can then analyze his judgment. Upon doing so it is immediately apparent that his judgment is flawed (you turned out well, lived a good life, and found a good companion, and his criticism is based entirely on racism). His judgment is therefore without merit, and you should not allow it to affect you.

    Easier said than done, I know, but for a slave (Epictetus translates as “acquired”) philosopher, I think he knows a thing or two about suffering and insult.