Chapter 19 of Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of RACE by Debbie Irving
Have you ever benefited from family connections and/or family funds to further your career? Get into a school? Attain housing? From which racial group were those family connections?
My “family connection” benefits came from my grandparents and my mother. My father was a transplant from another area of the country, but we returned regularly to Texarkana where my grandfather was the vice-president of the bank, and my great-uncle was the president of the bank. After my folks retired from moving around the country for 25 years, they returned to Texarkana where Papa got a “retirement job” with the water company (helped along by my mother’s family connections). Even before that, I got a scholarship to junior college when my mother took me to meet the dean, who remembered her as a student.
Shortly after my first child was born, I became gravely ill. My husband was in his last semester of college, so he packed me and the baby up and sent us from Texas to New Jersey to stay with my parents until the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. It turned out I had a badly infected gall bladder, and my childhood doctor convinced the surgeon that he should operate on me basically as a charity case. My parents paid for my hospital stay and all the incidentals, as well as caring for my baby and me for four months until my husband graduated. Then they let us live with them (and my three siblings) for another six months while my husband waited for his induction into the Air Force, followed by basic training.
When my husband was deployed to Vietnam and Thailand in 1970, my son and I again lived with my parents. Unfortunately during that time, the Air Force, in their great wisdom, lost my husband’s pay records for three months. I was a relatively new wife – married three years with a two-year-old – and I didn’t know how to begin to unravel the bureaucracy of the Air Force to just get a loan until they could straighten the pay out. My husband was busy fighting a war and was also having little to no luck in solving the problem. Thank goodness Ray and I were with my mother and father – otherwise we would have been homeless and starving.
After my husband retired from the Air Force, we returned to Texarkana and I got a job as Christian Education Director at my grandparents’ and parents’ church, helped along by the fact that my mother and the preacher’s wife were good friends and played bridge together.
I know my sister benefited by being hired by the trust department of my grandfather’s bank, and eventually retiring as a Trust Officer.
We all worked hard once we had our foot in the door but the beginning of our “good fortune” came from our white parents and grandparents.
If you would like to join me as I blog about my experiences with race, please read the book. It was life changing for me.