My mother taught me valuable things. She taught me to treat everyone as equals whether they clean the toilets or sit in a shiny new office on the top floor. She taught me that it doesn’t matter how much money someone has, that it doesn’t affect their worth. My mother taught me that I’m beautiful the way I am no matter what I wear or how much make up I have on. She taught me that everything really does come out in the wash, and that the light of a new day does indeed make everything better.
But my mother also taught me that it’s a sin for blacks and whites to marry. She taught me that gaining 20 or 30 pounds makes you unattractive, and that how you look is more important than how you feel. She taught me to be who I wanted to be, but then decided she didn’t like who I had chosen to become. My mother taught me that I could go anywhere I wanted for college as long as it didn’t cost too much. That the debt I might incur mattered less than my dreams. She taught me to be nice to people who are nice to you, and to never extend a helping hand to those convicted - in her mind - of cruelty. She taught me that when she said “respect me,” what she really meant was “fear me.” She taught me that if you’re the adult in a conversation your opinion always matters more than the child’s. She taught me that if you were the parent you don’t have to apologize, even when you were wrong.
My mother taught me a lot. Mostly she taught me who I didn’t want to be.