Why Witnessing Injustice on a Daily Basis was Necessary for My Purpose and Calling
By: Christine Zethraus, PMHNP-BC
Growing up and being raised partly by a loud, obnoxious, alcoholic, drug fueled, racist father was draining. I am a lover by nature so having a parent who was the extreme opposite of myself was challenging to say the least. My father and I were polar opposites in our approach to life. He was harsh, crass, vulgar, and forceful. I am pensive, reflective, laid back, and try to see things from many perspectives.
I ask a lot of questions. I crave truth and seek the other side of the story. My father made a lot of assumptions about others. And built his stubborn house there.
Beginning of My Gratitude for my Racist Father…
Now, don’t get me wrong. I can be loud, relentless, in your face, challenging, and forceful when it comes to unfair treatment of others. This is where my gratitude for my racist father begins. He taught me sometimes IT IS necessary to get loud when you are fighting for what you believe in. It is necessary to be vocally forceful. Sometimes your approach is needs to be challenging and drain others I suppose.
Unfortunately, I can also have these same qualities when I feel personally betrayed in romantic relationships…ugh.
That story for another time. (hint: daddy issues)
Hearing the N-Word was Essential in my Childhood…
Hearing my Father say the N-Word constantly was absolutely necessary to my upbringing. Watching my father scream racist remarks to folks minding their own business driving by was imperative. Observing violence and constantly feeling fear in my Father’s presence was essential to my childhood. Being afraid of the person, parent, father figure, family member who looked like me was fundamental.
My Purpose in this Life…
Why in the world would I ever say such a thing? Why would I say my Father’s violent behaviors and racist mindset were an essential part of my childhood?
I would never have cared about any other issues outside of my own race, culture, economic status, education, and upbringing had I not experienced my racist Father’s wrath of misguided hate towards others. Along with his misguided hate towards me at times. Being front lines to daily injustice shaped who I am. Shaped my mission in this world.
I had to physically feel injustice. I had to emotionally feel injustice. I had to intellectually feel injustice. I had to encompass the enormity of all sides of to care, ask questions, reflect about the Injustices of different races, cultures, economic statuses, education and healthcare disparities. I HAD to experience, witness, feel the hate and fear of it all in order for ME to see the multiple sides of the injustice coin.
I find solutions by seeking other’s truth, ask questions, and do my best to see it all from many perspectives.
What does the word adversity mean to you? Chris Allen is the definition of overcoming adversity.
A powerful follow up conversation with my new friend Chris Allen. His honesty, vulnerability, transparency, and directness about his difficult childhood filled with abuse and chaos inspires me to be more vulnerable and transparent about my own story.
Chris and I tell discuss losing our virginity at a young age, Chris’s former approach to sex and intimacy before meeting his beautiful wife, and his father’s suspicious suicide. And the weird thing Chris and I have in common! Find out the ONE question Chris COULD NOT answer at the end.
This episode left me speechless. It is not often I meet someone who’s childhood has similarities to mine. Much less someone who is as direct and transparent about the value of having a traumatic childhood , how reframing our conditioned perspective of our painful past is where your power lies and shows our true purpose.
My honest no-holds-barred conversation with Chris Allen, CEO & Co-Founder of Advanced Computing and Technology, Athlete, Father, Husband, former prisoner turned Advocate, about his Journey of Reframing Conditioned Views of Male Strength is a game changer. How beautiful for two people who barely know one another to instantly trust & feel safe in sharing their dysfunctional childhood resulting in seeking love in toxic relationships, multiple sex partners, and choices altering our destiny forever.
Society tells us that men should be “strong”, the head of the family, the one that we can lean on, the one who has all the answers, the one who won’t hurt you, the one who will rescue you. Then women, such as myself, become disappointed when men do not live up to this misguided societal conditioning.
The purpose of today’s episode is to start reframing our misguided conditioned beliefs about male strength.
Thank You Chris Allen for trusting the listeners with your story. Thank you for being honest about your own mistakes you made in past relationships. Thank you Chris for being vulnerable. You are a role model in male vulnerability.
Chris Allen is a role model in Male Vulnerability. Male Vulnerability is the VERY definition of Male Strength.
A year ago today, March 01, 2021, my Father died. The Father who exposed me to violence, hatred,racism, chaos, distorted boundaries, and my main example of a Man, died year ago today.
Prior to his death, I had made amends with him, began to unwind his conditioning, and began to see him from a different perspective. I was able to ask him questions from a purely inquisitive state, not from a emotionally wounded child one.
After his death, I found our family’s genealogy book in a box of his. The genealogy book starts in the 1800s. I did not recognize any of the names nor had heard of any of my ancestors listed. I was surprised to discover we came from Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia, and South Carolina.
As I skimmed through this genealogy book, I became horrified. I found an itemized inventory and appraisement of my family’s property such as farm equipment, combs, farm animals, dishes, wagons, etc. Then last on the property lists were the enslaved people my family owned. I placed it back in the box for a year. Until now.
I decided to read my family’s genealogy book again, this time with an open inquisitive mind. This was extremely difficult as one of the enslaved children my ancestors owned had the same name as my daughter for the price of $200. I was horrified again.
Until someone gave me a different perspective.
I am so fortunate to have people in my life who create a safe space for me to ask uncomfortable questions and allow me to discuss topics which may be uncomfortable for them. During a phone call with my close friend, who is an African-American male from the East Coast, I expressed my horror, shock, and disgust about my family’s genealogy book listing the enslaved people they owned. I expressed the need to write about my feelings as a therapeutic release. I was highly emotional and ready to write a blog full of upsetting expression.
My sweet friend’s response to my highly charged emotions and my desire to write an emotional piece on my family owning enslaved people was almost just as shocking as my family’s genealogy book.
His response was….
Excuse me?Embrace the fact my family owned wives, fathers, children, mothers, daughter, sons all while calling the women wenches? Excuse me! Embraceit? No! Never was my immediate response.
However, I calmed down and listened to my trusted friend. A friend who grew up in tough places for a black man on the East Coast where he had to assimilate and codeswitch depending on the environment. A man who is now a leader in educating young adults in the Diversity and Inclusion World. I knew if HE was telling me to embrace the ugly side of my family’s history then this a powerful moment where I can use my voice to help others do the same.
But I didn’t just change my mind instantly. I needed to really figure out what the word “Embrace” meant to me and how choosing this way of looking at my family enslaving people did not include agreeing with it.
How Hearing my Father Say the N-Word Frequently Affected Me
Growing up with a racist father was exhausting. I have many memories of us riding around in his car. He would scream the N-word to other drivers he felt were driving stupidly. He wouldn’t just say the N-word. The word “stupid” or “dumb” always came before. Hearing “Stupid N***er” growing up was confusing, terrifying, and strange. He never explained how these people were “stupid” or what the N-word meant. My young body told me all I needed to know. My body would become tense and nauseated. My body still tenses when I recall these memories.
My first memory of my father was of him threatening to shoot my Mother. He was pacing the living room, on drugs, and full of hate. I remember being in freeze mode as my Mother and Step-Father were knocking on the windows calling my name outside. This was on Thanksgiving.
Because of his racism, I have always been drawn to other cultures and races. Especially the African American culture and community. I have always been a seeker asking many questions– particularly when it comes to injustice. I think on some level I was trying to find the evidence of my racist Father’s misguided hatred. There was none. What I did find were loving communities, big families, good food, and the BEST churches.
I was 15 the first time I went to a Black Church. The JOY was infectious. I remember wondering why everyone was so HAPPY. I had never seen happiness on that level in my life. My body had a different response this time. A response of pure LOVE which I had never felt. A response I am forever grateful for.
The African American Community showed me what LOVE is. More importantly, what LOVE feels like. It felt like a SAFE warm blanket surrounding me.
Towards the end of my father’s life he began to change his mind. My last video of him is being dumbfounded our family once owed slaves. I couldn’t believe what he was saying so I had to record it. I am so glad I did because he was not hopeless. He was not born racist. He was conditioned to be racist by my racist Grandmother. She was conditioned as well.
My father left me one MOREsurprise after his death. Most of the people he hired to handle his affairs before he died were African American. He hired those “stupid” people to handle his most important documents.