So today I am already deviating from the list of 30 starter topics for my 30 day blog challenge, due to someone posing a question to me today.
B: I really miss VA, it speaks to me. It feels like that old blanket you like to have.
M: Really? Because VA to me speaks of mountains and racism
This caught me off-guard, because I had not thought about my birth state in that light. Then again, I am a white male so I have a privileged view of things- even though I don’t try to, I have a prejudiced lens with which to view things. So let’s address my comment…
I was born in Virginia. Like I told you guys from my last blog, my mom met my dad while he was stationed in Ft Bragg, NC. She was raised in Staunton, VA and that is where I spent my early years living with Grandma and Grandpa. Then dad was stationed in other places and we started to move. When he finally retired from the service, we moved back to MN with his family. I was four at that time. I have only been back to VA four times since then, and the last one was for my grandmother’s funeral. We flew through Chicago and then into Charlottesville. I grabbed the window seat because I have to look while we fly. When we dip below the clouds the first thing I look for are the Appalachians. They anchor me, for some reason they are ingrained in my bones- I need to see them when I go out there, and they provide me comfort. Every home that my Grandma and Grandpa lived at was on some sort of hill (and foothills), it was rare to find a flat spot that wasn’t a driveway or parking lot. Even my aunts and uncles live in the foot hills, and I absolutely love it. I am a nature guy, I can spend hours in the woods lost within the sounds of the forest and my own random thoughts. When I see the mountains something within me clicks, all fears and anxiety are cast aside. I take deep breaths and enjoy the view. As a kid I would lay on Grandma’s lawn and watch the clouds and sky. I felt the ground around me, seeping into my bones, providing me a feeling of safeness and comfort.
Another reason I feel at home in VA is the buildings. I like old things, old buildings and Staunton has a lot of them. I like old architecture- from the grandiose mansions to the small, efficient houses. I enjoy looking at all of them, trying to imagine the floor plans within. I am visual and tactile, when I touch the old stone I try to imagine the buildings standing in their prime. I wonder about their design, why certain patterns were used and what accommodations needed to be adapted to use them. How were the roadways mapped out, what used to exist here to cause travel?
This is where my privileged view fails me. While I appreciate the beauty of the design and layout of the old homes, I don’t think about how they were placed there. Growing up on a small farm, you don’t think about things like that. If you need something built, you do it yourself. If you can’t do it yourself, you have a neighbor come over who can advise you how to. You also provide that neighbor with meals while they are working with you, as well as some barter for their services (which usually involved me picking rocks from a plowed field). Virginia was a confederate state, upholding slavery. I have seen this throughout my life through my mother. Prejudice runs deeply through her. It is because of her beliefs that I worked hard as a kid to approach everyone I met without a lens. I always attempt to judge someone by their own actions rather than preconceived ideas (I say attempt to because I also now realize that there are things we unconsciously do because of the position of privilege we grew up in). All of the buildings I admire in Staunton were built by slave labor, they all contain rooms where servants worked for a race that deemed themselves superior. There are many tales those buildings would tell me that would cause me discomfort, and rightfully so.
This makes me really think about things, about how our experiences mold our outlook. If VA, which feels like home to me, creates such a different reaction in others- what other views and practices in my classroom are doing the exact same thing?