July 10, 2008
understand my upbringing
Originally PUBLISHED July 11, 2004
I was raised by a long line of Kentucky hillbillies. My grandfather once made moonshine so that he could sell it and buy shoes for his 5 children to wear to school. I see no evil in what my grandfather did. I knew him well and a more honest, fair man you'll NEVER find on the face of this planet.
My dad was the youngest section foreman ever to achieve that position in the Harlan County coal mines. He was 23 years old when he was promoted, and he worked with rough cobs in that hole. He did well and earned their respect.
I remember seeing my father come home from the mine looking as black as any African American I've ever seen. Coal dust was a part of life in Harlan County back then. My daddy wore it proudly because it put groceries on the table and clothes on my back.
I was taught to achieve. I was taught to read and write. I was given the tools I needed in this world by MY PARENTS, who wanted the best for me and my brother.
"Given?" No, that's the wrong word. I had a work ethic and a sense of responsibility HAMMERED into my head. Second best didn't mean shit to my father and he always set the bar high. Mama was always there, but she expected the best you could do, too. My parents taught both me and my brother to do well in life.
I played football on a championship team that lost a total of three games in three years. I was the youngest General Foreman ever to achieve that rank at the plant where I worked. I was making more money than my father was when he died.
I suppose that he was proud of me, but I'll never know for sure because he never told me. My brother is a high-octane litigator, feared far and wide in courtrooms all over the counrty. For a couple of hillbilly boys, we both did well.
So, when you want to call me a "virulent racist," just stop a moment and think. I grew up poor and didn't KNOW that I was poor until I hit high school. The first steak I ever ate I bought with my own money and cooked for myself. I was 20 years old at the time. What black people call "soul food" today was a staple at my house. Cornbread and pinto beans ("miner's strawberries,") according to my dad, and fried fatback (salt bacon) was a delicacy. We ate a lot of potatoes and leftover stew.
I got a college degree. The first person on EITHER SIDE of the family to actually graduate from college. I'm still proud of that. I did it, and I worked two jobs the entire time I was in school.
I'll never use the N-word again. That just distracts people from the real meat of the matter. You can start from the base roots and make something of yourself if you are bound and determined to do it. Or, you can sit on your ass and whine about the curve balls life throws you.
Those who sit on their ass and whine deserve the N-word. They don't have to live that way.
You want a really obscene word? Try "choice."
All content © Rob Smith