By Adam Corson-Finnerty
My father was a white, Roman Catholic, Irish and English, a Southerner, with an eighth grade education and a poorly paid Airman in the Army Air Corps. The only public figure I ever heard him mention was John Charles Thomas, a very successful baritone who did opera, Broadway, and was on the radio in the 30s and 40s. My father was a baritone, and occasionally would earn $5 or $10 singing at weddings. Ten extra bucks wasn’t bad during the Depression.
Then there was my mother: white, Presbyterian, German and Welch, a Northerner; with a college degree and gets a decent salary as a full-time elementary school teacher. Her hero was Eleanor Roosevelt, who she deeply admired for her commitment to social justice. In particular, she told me many times the story of Eleanor Roosevelt publically resigning from the Daughters of the American Republic when that “patriotic” group of women would not allow Marian Anderson to perform at their venue in Washington, DC.
My parents were married in 1943. They stayed married for 40 years until my mother passed away from pancreatic cancer. My father died a few years later. They had two children, me and my brother Thomas. Our “ethnic” background then became Irish, English, Welch, and German. Our social orientation was greatly determined by our mother. My father saw nothing wrong with calling black people “n*****rs.” He used terms like “I’ll just Jew him down” on the price of something. He told me a story about an incident where a homosexual man made an advance at him, and he threatened to hit him with a wrench. He told me that female USO volunteers were called “Victory Girls,” because they would “lay down and spread for victory.”
My mother squeezed all of this out of him. She challenged him on one prejudice after another. My father had one sterling quality: he believed strongly in fairness. He often would say to me, “well I thought this way, but your mother convinced me it wasn’t fair.” I married Susan Corson. Her ethnic background is Welch, French, English, Irish, Scottish and German. We put our two last names together, to create Corson-Finnerty. Our children were named Corson-Finnerty. Our religious and social values are very liberal. We joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) together. We recently hosted the wedding reception for two black lesbian friends. My wife did the flowers. Our daughter dated black guys and white guys when she was in high school and all through her single years. She married a brown-skinned man from Nicaragua. Their courtship was largely conducted on Skype and in Spanish. Their 2.75 year-old son is being raised to speak Spanish and English. He is an American, and his ethnic background is Spanish, Indigenous American, Irish, English, French, German, Scottish and Welch. This is the way it is supposed to work. Not just in the United States, but throughout the world.
Mix up those genes; mix up those ideas; embrace global humanity. And for God’s sake, recognize that we all came from Africa. Recognize that race, nationality, religion, cultural practices, preferences and prejudices are all artificial constructs. We can embrace these constructs, we can modify them based upon our own life experiences, and we can blend ours with someone else’s. This is a good thing. It works well with evolution and human survival. And it works toward the goal of world peace.
With this as my credo, you can imagine how encouraged I feel to have discovered Christelyn Karazin and Beyond Black & White. For far too long, we have let “the color line” divide our nation. Having marched with Martin Luther King (Selma to Montgomery) and supported the Civil Rights movement and the laws that resulted, I find her perspective to be refreshing and positive. Every indicator, every poll, shows that Americans are moving beyond black and white. Interracial marriage is increasing in every demographic, racial bias and “supremacist” views are fading. Donald Trump doesn’t represent the tip of the iceberg. Instead he represents the puddle that remains as the glacier recedes. Don’t be fooled by the men behind Trump’s curtain. The diehard racists and white nationalists are relatively few. The liberal, open, and accepting are many. This is not to deny that racism (and sexism) are buried deep in the ground of our collective history. There is much work to be done to unearth and correct those sins and rebuild our common house. The ideals have always been there, and they have even greater force today. According to their culture, my mother and father should never have married. They broke out of those confines, and so have millions and millions of others. Let’s take the positive, future-oriented note that Christelyn is sounding. Let’s keep swirling toward sanity.
About the Author:
Adam Corson-Finnerty Adam is retired, and lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. He has been involved with social justice movements for his entire adult life. He and his wife have five cats and are deeply in love with their beautiful grandson.