I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately. Well, over the past few years, actually. Mainly since all this white supremacist crap has been scaring me.
I don't know for sure when Gramma was born, but I think it was probably just before 1900. I was born in 1944, so when my father was off flying jets in Europe during WWII, Mom and I lived with Gramma and Grampa in Scranton, Pa., along with my great-Gramma. I don't really remember Great-Gramma because she died while I was still a toddler. What was most interesting about her was that she was born in Wales (I think) and she hated the English, and refused to speak English. She spoke only Welsh. I never heard my Grandparents speak Welsh, and my mother certainly didn't, so I don't know how that worked in the household.
There's a LOT I don't know about my family.
Anyway, that means my grandparents (maternal - I never met my paternal grandparents at all, even though they lived nearby) went through WWI and the great depression. One story from that time was that my grandfather avoided being drafted for WWI by shooting off his right big toe. Just "went hunting" one day, and shot it off "while climbing a fence".
My grandmother's skin was so white you could see the blood vessels under it. My mother's skin was like that when she was young, before she started tanning. Gramma was a member of the Puritan chirch. Went to church every Sunday. Founding member of the local chapter. Allowed no spirits or tobacco or swearing in her house. Member of the women's auxiliary, which raised money for the church every year by baking and selling Welsh cookies. Now you can buy them all over Scranton, but back then, the ladies were sworn to protect the recipe, and the Puritan church was the only place you could get them. They sold like, well, hot cakes. (Snork!) Gramma was highly respected in her community.
Now, the other side. The side that bothers me now.
Gramma pretty much hated "others".
She passionately hated the Irish. They were all drunks and would cheat you blind.
She hated Catholics. They took from the poor to give to the pope.
She hated the Jews. "They killed our Lord!" Um, Gramma, Jesus was Jewish. "No, Jesus was Christian!"
The only good people were from Wales or England. The Scots were barbarians. The French were dissolute. The Nordic people and Dutch were maybe ok, but people from eastern Europe were untrustworthy. Spanish and Italians were completely unacceptable, not only because they were probably secretly Catholic even if they said they weren't, but also because their skin was too dark, always a fatal flaw.
She judged people by their last names. Your name could not end in any vowel except 'e' or 'y'. She would not patronize any business where the owner's name ended in "a", "i", or "o" unless there was no other option, because they would cheat you blind. The Greeks were the worst.
Asians and Africans weren't really people. God hated them, obviously, look where he put them. By the way, that "not really people" was literal. They were so subhuman, she gave them no more consideration than the stray dog in the street.
It wasn't just Gramma. It seemed like all her friends thought the same. They'd stand on the steps outside church and say terribly nasty things about the parishioners attending the Catholic church around the corner, and then pass through the church doors and act all sweet and loving and holy.
Even as a child, that disgusted me.
Gramma was a product of her time.
My mother had a few of the same attitudes in her youth, but when she got away from that environment and met more people, gradually it all melted away. Like, when I was a child there were certain classmates I was not allowed to play with because they weren't "our kind", but that gradually faded away.
Now, I like to think I have no automatic prejudices, and neither do most of the people I know.
So all these white supremacists confuse me. And scare me. How have they reverted to my grandmother? I don't understand.
Actually, I am aware of one prejudice I do have. I dislike people who are willfully ignorant. Who don't think, who refuse to think.
Later - I got to thinking about my grandmother's family names. What letters did they end with?
Bloss, Evans, Williams, Morris, Jones, Davis, and Gyrmyn.
Gyrmyn LOOKS Welsh, more so even than the others, but it's actually a very old English name. The others are some of the most common names in Wales.