May every racist find an Alana Infantino

Opinion

When I tell someone that I’ve been estranged since 1993 from both sides of my family, I often get asked, “Don’t you miss them?”

No, I don’t. Let me tell you why.

Kingsville, TexasBackground information: I was born in Kingsville, Texas, deep in the Deep South. Kingsville is a small farming and ranching community of about 25,000. Back in its heyday it was a major railroad town for Missouri Pacific Railroad, which is why my ancestors located there since they all worked for the railroad.

There was one black student in my high school class. I was one of his few friends, and I often got bullied for it.

Texas A&M UniversityI went off to college at Texas A&M University, pretty much an all-white institution of higher education. Students used to say that the only black people on campus played football or basketball.

Just 50 miles down the road was Prairie View A&M University, a sister institution of higher education but pretty much all-black.

This was in 1973.

The last time I was in Kingsville, Texas, was in 2001. At that time blacks and Hispanics were finally making inroads into politics.

I remember sitting in my uncle’s back yard one day. It was an impromptu family reunion because my brother and sister were in town, and they had not been in Kingsville in 25 years or so.

My wise old grandmotherAlso in the crowd were three cousins and their families, including children, and my wise old grandmother, 91 at the time. That was the last time I saw my wise old grandmother before she died in June 2003.

As the conversation turned to politics, I remembered something my wise old grandmother had told me many years previous: “There are three things you don’t talk about in polite company: religion, sex, and politics.” As soon as my uncle opened his mouth and started spouting racial epithets and ethnic slurs, I knew that my wise old grandmother was right. The conversation turned ugly, in my mind, very quickly, with everyone except me and MWOG jumping in with their own brand of ugliness. It kind of surprised me about my brother and sister because they had lived in New Orleans for 25 years. Hellooooooooooo.

I once was like them. After all, I had grown up with them.

It all started to change for me on April 15, 1993. After writing a check to the IRS to pay my taxes, I loaded my 1989 Mustang GT with 100 CDs, called a friend who lived 100 miles away and told him to come get the dogs, and disappeared. I was on my way to Canada to commit suicide.

Twelve days later I wound up in San Diego. I was out of the work force for 11 months while I worked on sexual orientation issues as I was coming out. Being gay was only part of the problem. As my coming out counselor told me at the time, “You have a lot of black and white videotapes. It’s time to colorize them.”

Eleven months later I put myself back in the work force as a temp because I only wanted to work on T-W-Th to make enough money to pay for food, shelter, and gas for the Mustang to go to the beach.

My first job as a temp was for a guy very much like my granddad. Every other word was a cuss word or a racial slur. I didn’t go back after lunch break. And now you know why I always talk about my wise old grandmother but not my granddad.

My second job started as an interview. I was to meet Alana Infantino, a lady with whom I’m still friends 21 years later. (Hi, Alana!) I didn’t know what kind of name Alana Infantino was, and I sure didn’t realize that the person was a woman. I had been raised to believe that women belong in the home, barefoot and pregnant as my uncle would say.

I liked Alana but had a problem with a woman being my boss. I remembered what my counselor had said, and I took the job, intent on colorizing my old videotapes.

Thirty days later and I was working as a full-time, permanent employee for the company Alana was with. The caveat was that I would be a consultant and would work wherever the company sent me, although San Diego would be my home base and I would get to come home every 2-4 weeks, at company expense.

The first place the company wanted to send me was Detroit. Alana, being the very smart and astute woman that she is, took me out to eat to discuss the opportunity in Detroit. By that time, she knew all about my past, my family, and why I was in San Diego. She told me that day, “Russel, there are females in the office in Detroit. There are black people in the office in Detroit. There are even black females in the office in Detroit. Are you sure you want to tackle those obstacles now.”

I was sure.

It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I hope the racists in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, at the University of Oklahoma, and throughout the nation—especially in the Midwest, Deep South, and rural areas where racism still seems to be so pervasive—find their Alana Infantino, and sooner rather than later. Life is so much more pleasant….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Check out Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos.

photograhic art taking pictures making art

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “May every racist find an Alana Infantino

  1. lunatique77

    This is a great post and it shows how our opinions depend on our experience. A friend of mine is Turkish and I had endless discussions about gay people with him in the past. He said it was unnatural and he didn’t want anything to do with it. A few years later, one of his best friends came out. And I was so suprised to talk to him afterwards. He said “Well, you know, I was brought up in a culture that simply ignores the fact that there are different orientations. I was wrong.” I was and still am very impressed. It takes some courage to find out that you have been wrong!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      One of the guys I met in my coming out support group in 1993 was from Bombay, India. He came to the U.S. in order to come out. He went back to Bombay, but the last time I talked with him in 2003 or so, he was estranged from all his family.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. SeasonedSistah2

    Bringing diverse people together and having an open conversation about our differences could eliminate/reduce some of the “isms” we carry. Our racist attitudes, oftentimes, can be attributed to fear of the unknown. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Dan Antion

    This is a hard story to read, but I have experience with racists and, unfortunately, it’s easy to believe. I’m glad you told this story today. With all the events in the news, I’m happy to see this one get a little more attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  4. operasmorg

    I’m willing to bet that Alana is also happy to have met you. 🙂 You had all the excuses in the world to not turn out well, but you still come out on top and with lots of compassion to spare. Thanks for letting us in on it!!

    I’ve been lucky, I think, when it comes to racism thingy even though I look way more Asian than white. Somehow I’ve only had two unpleasant racism experiences out of many opportunities. Most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised. Last weekend, for instance, I chanced on the Bancroft Rock House while riding home from La Presa, and decided to drop in on the Bancroft Ranch House Museum next door (it was open, for once!) and had the best museum visit ever. 😀 I did gulp a few times when my tour guide (who really knows everything there is to know about Spring Valley) was talking so much about ethnic tensions (indians v Americans, Americans v immigrants, etc) and opened a photo book and detailed how the area used to be lily white and now it isn’t, but he likes how it’s more diverse there now and wanted me to feel very welcomed by mentioning it (I’m just not used to the subject being broached at all).

    I ended up hanging around and chatting with the folks there for 3 hrs. Hopefully the Bancroft House will be one of your stops on the Historical Landmarks hunt (it’s only open Fri/Sat/Sun from 1-4 pm, free admission and with a really cool curator and not enough visitors). 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I lived about a half mile from the Bancroft Ranch House from 1999-2001. Been there a couple of times but I lost all of my pictures in the Great Hard Drive Crash of August 2005. Just means that I’ll have to go again and, yes, it is on my list. I don’t know yet whether it’s on the San Diego list of historical landmarks, but when I finish those, I’ll be doing other cities.

      The owner of the chess company that I work for teaching chess in after-school enrichment programs lives in Chula Vista’s historical landmark #35, so for that one, I’ll have interior pictures, too!…….LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. operasmorg

        Awesome! I’m looking forward to reading about those! (I haven’t gotten around to looking around Chula Vista much, tho did chance on one of the landmark while short-cutting up a really cool side road. Thought about poking in to investigate, but it looked rather private so I left it alone. It’s off Grevilea at Horton Rd, I think. 😉 ).

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  5. DailyMusings

    I grew up in a town that voluntarily integrated its school system in the 1960’s before it became law to do so. I naively believed it was like this everywhere, until I met people who did not share my open views. Good for you to pull yourself out and away from the insulated world of racism and bigotry.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      When I look back on things, I realize just how racist Kingsville, Texas, was. White people owned the businesses and all other colors worked the businesses. I think going off to college rather than attending my hometown college was one of the best things I ever did for myself. It opened my eyes to so much more of the world, especially since one of my dorm mates my freshman year was a black guy from Nigeria.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  6. Karen B

    It takes great courage to start again away from your family. I know that because I have done it too. It is a shame though and I wish we had not had to do it, but, I know you will have done what I have tried to do which is to build a new ‘family’ with people who share the same values.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      One of the self-help books I read in 1993 when I was coming out was by Louise Hay, who was just getting started in her career as a self-help guru. One sentence really affected me, loosely quoted: “You didn’t have a choice into which family you were born, but you have a choice right now as to who is in your family.”

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. wordsfromanneli

        I’ve often thought the same. If the media wasn’t there with cameras providing a stage, there would be little point in having a crazy mob stirring up trouble. Little point for those misguided ISIS cowards who hide their heads, to murder someone if they didn’t have video cameras to show off their evil deeds. Modern technology certainly has its downside. Ironic, isn’t it, that they use a primitive tool like a machete and still crave modern technology for advertising.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          Some how I missed your comment back in March. I also have thought it odd that they use modern technology for advertising a primitive deed and yet hide behind masks. If their god requires them to hide themselves while doing these types of deeds for him, he’s certainly not a god that I would want to be associated with.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply

Let your words flow

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s