Of my two grandmothers, one was a white Southern confederate racist. I feel all sorts of ways for her. I loved her. Family, I can’t not. But love is huge and fractious. It’s not just the warm fuzzy. There’s ruthless compassion in love, as well. And love that doesn’t stand up to truth is not love. My recognition of my grandmother’s deep racism changes the love the I feel. Her racism doesn’t erase all the kindness she showed me, but it does soil it. There is no heritage there that I must value, even if I have kept and use all her doll making patterns. And you know I will make dolls she would not approve of.
My other grandmother was born the same year, 1910, in the the same South. I once found Malcolm X’s biography in her purse. She told me that “he went through a lot and had a lot of good thing to say”. She voted for Jesse Jackson twice, once even going, on her own, to a rally of his in Oakland when she was visiting from Texas. My love for her is a lot less fractious and a lot more inspiring. I find myself wanting to do a lot more than just sew like she did.