I was very lucky to grow up in a curious household. After my folks divorced I lived with my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, three brothers, and three cousins. My grandfather was there too, but he was retired from both his job and the world. He mostly painted and read. In my memories he is sort of semi-tranparent. I have two of his paintings on the wall. They’re not very good, but they bring him to mind.
While he was painting, between the three women they ran a very remote 280-acre cattle ranch, and raised us seven kids. With no other ranches for miles, the only social order I knew was a matriarchy—my grandmother, called at her request “My-mummie” because she said there was nothing “grand” about old people, plus my mom, and my aunt.
After while, my aunt remarried and moved away. And my grandmother decided to return to her work in the larger world, with my grandfather bobbing in her wake over the horizon with his easel under his arm and his lovely smile.
That left Mom running the ranch by herself, and bringing up her four sons, the oldest about ten years old at that time. She ran the ranch by herself for the next six years, with a couple of very short-term husbands mixed in there who weren’t around much even when they were around.
So as you might imagine, I have always found the idea of some kind of claimed feminine inferiority to be laughable. When I was a kid I’d compare my mom to the other kids’ dads running the neighboring ranches, and despite growing up a city girl, she was out there with the rest of the ranchers making their herds pay. She held her ground with the best of them, and was widely respected for doing it. And my grandmother, she’d talked to kings, and smuggled papers across the Iron Curtain so people could get out, and saved people’s lives. I didn’t know one man who had done what she’d done. Female inferiority? The thought never occurred to us kids. We knew the truth.
I was fortunate in another way. My grandmother had grown up in the late 1800’s in remote Louisiana, surrounded by people of color. Hers was the first white family to settle at the far end of Lake Arthur, where according to her the only other people there were “negros, Cajuns, and Redbone Indians”. As a result of them being her playmates, she grew up a fierce opponent of any form of racism. She would never allow what we now call “the n-word” to be uttered in her presence. We were never allowed to disparage people because of their race, or because they were of mixed race. Ever. Oh, she was a lady about it, but if she’d say “You are talking about my friends”, we’d know that we’d done something very wrong.
In addition, my grandmother had run Jewish refugee camps in Germany after WWII. Far from being anti-Semitic, she was actively pro-Semitic, because she’d seen the true human cost of the Holocaust up close and personal. She knew that we all bleed the same color.
Not that either black or Jewish people were an issue when I was in grade school. There were no black people anywhere around. There were no Jewish people anywhere around. There were no Mexican people anywhere around.
Odd. I was raised by women who absolutely would not tolerate any kind of racism or anti-Semitism, in a monochromatic society composed solely of white American Protestant farm and ranch families.
However, the beauty of that was when I did meet people from all the recondite corners of our lovely planet, I was remarkably free of ancestral misunderstandings. This was a true gift.
Of course, the downside was I was also regrettably free of any knowledge about other races and cultures.
Here’s what a naif I was … I had a girlfriend when I was about twenty, a lovely woman. One day she mentioned she was Jewish. I was surprised, and told her I hadn’t known. She was surprised in turn, and said “Couldn’t you tell by my last name?”.
I said “You mean Goldberg is a Jewish name?” …
But it was even worse than that. Not only did I not know that someone named “Goldberg” has a good chance of being Jewish … I truly did not even know that there are last names that are traditionally Jewish. A babe in the cultural woods, hey, I was a kid from a cattle ranch …
I bring all of this up because I’ve been accused of being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and generally deplorable because of my support of many of the policies of President Trump. Like many people who voted based on policies rather than personalities, I am none of the above. After years of living and working with people of all colors, races, religions, and cultures I’d describe myself as a realist.
I know that women are different from men. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
I know that Swiss people are different from Fijian people. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
And after spending a quarter of my life living and working outside the US, I’m here to report the bad news for racists, anti-Semites, and xenophobes of all kinds, and the good news for the rest of us.
We’re intermarrying at rates never seen before. We’re all headed for some kind of middle ground. My buddy’s young grand-daughter is one-quarter Choiseul Islander, one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter I-Kiribati, and one-quarter corn-fed Iowa … and like many mixed-race people, she’s nothing but a cutie pie.
Now, throughout history there have been a host of very ugly names for mixed-race people. My grandmother wouldn’t allow us to utter any of those names either. She was death on terms like “half-breed” or “mulatto” or any of them.
So I was overjoyed when I was living in Fiji to learn that in Fijian, mixed-race people are called “kai loma”.
Now, “kai” just means people. For example, “Kai Viti” means Fijian people.
Loma in Fijian means the center or the middle of something. There’s an island in the middle of the Fijian group called “Loma-I-Viti”, the center of Fiji.
So “kai loma” means the people of the center, the marvelous place in the middle where the races join up, the glorious admixture of all of the colors where our great to the Nth grandchildren will all find themselves …
Because at the end of the day, all of the rivers flow to the sea.
My best to all of my friends—the melanin-deficient like myself, people of color, and a special shout-out to all of the kai loma folk out there, the people of the future, my warmest regards to every one,
PS—I’m told by reputable authorities that the term “melanin-deficient” is no longer considered politically correct, because it implies that a melanin deficiency is some kind of handicap. Instead, I’ve been told that the correct term (at least until next week when it is likely to be declared no longer PC) is the much more neutral “melanin-challenged”.