Friday, January 21, 2011

Unintentional Ignorance

The basis for this post comes from the seemingly innocuous phrase, "In spades".  I previously never thought of this being a racial term, though it does make sense in retrospect. Still, my parents have used this phrase for years and it evolved into my vocabulary when speaking of something in large number.

Now, I admittedly used this phrase mostly when describing problematic situations, so I can better understand its negative connotations. However, I never thought anything of it until a friendly colleague at Macy's quietly took me aside and told me that phrase was inappropriate.

When discussing this with my mom today, I asked her about the origin of the phrase and she casually agreed that the phrase probably had racial overtones.  Admission from her aside, I wholeheartedly expect that phrase to remain part of her everyday vocabulary.

Now, I would not indemnify my mom as a racist by any means, and her open mindedness played a big role in me being allowed to explore my beliefs without the worry of being persecuted for being different.  The fact that she grew up with an intolerant dad (the type that the Archie Bunker character was based off of) undoubtedly left her with bad habits that she frankly had little chance to shake.

On the other hand, my dad's motivations could certainly be questioned further, as he regularly uses hurtful and insensitive language without thinking twice.  Deep down, I think he's more open minded then his actions and words would lead you to believe.  However, a strong part of his core beliefs are shaped with a strong cloud of intolerance over their origins.

Again, a good part of this is due to an upbringing that refused to acknowledge, accept, and promote the differences in people.  His late mother (my grandmother), with whom I had a somewhat strained relationship with, took an almost sadistic joy in the fact she likely would not live through Barack Obama's presidency.  Obama being elected president scared her to the core, and she was one of those people who would openly admit that his views and policies would ruin the country. 

My dad's father was even tougher handed, the type who ruled with an iron fist even when different tact was necessary (not the type of parenting my dad needed to receive by any stretch, and something I resent as I learn more about my father and the genesis of his mental illness).  Likewise, tolerant would be about the four millionth phrase I would use to describe my dad's father, somewhere right next to mild mannered.

With that type of upbringing, my dad had an uphill battle to be anywhere in the neighborhood of open minded.  As I mentioned earlier, I think he has a pretty open heart deep down, with life experiences from the military and working with a diverse set of people in the medical industry helping to counteract his upbringing and initial belief formations. 

Taking this back to me, I assuredly inherited some of my parents less desirable thoughts, actions, and vocabulary that has passed from generation to generation.  What I hope and expect is to a put a stop to this ignorance, as it is no longer unintentional if I know about it and do nothing to change.  From a relatively minor thing to not using an objectionable phrase, even in casual conversation, to more serious ignorant actions, I need to make the necessary improvements so that I can be a good example to potential further generations.


  1. Honestly, I'd never heard of that phrase being racist either. And poking around the web a little reveals that not many other people know its origin and that the racist explanation may be mistaken.

  2. I had never heard that connotation either, but the person who told me has been around the world in military and traveling for fun/work, and seemed sure enough to where I'd trust him.

  3. I don't think it's racist at all! Spades is the highest suit, traditionally, when playing trick-taking card games, and I have always thought of that expression as being related to cards. I really don't think it's racial at all.

  4. I mean, I never thought anything of it either, and never saw any kind of racial connotation behind it. Maybe my guy Pat (co-worker at Macy's during overnights) was with a certain group that perceived it that way and holds to that belief. It figures that a post about ignorance would involve a disputed phrase.