How I Coped With Being Raised By An Extremely Prejudiced Father

by Jessica Natale

My parents could not be more different from each other if they wanted to be.

I was raised by a mother who is open-minded, tolerant and understanding and a father who, simply put, opposes anyone who isn't straight, white or male.

I have been fortunate enough to take on the qualities and overall outlooks from my mother because even at a young age, I knew there was darkness to my father.

His seething, malicious revulsion made my skin crawl.

I knew I wanted to grow up to be like my mother, a woman who seldom has a bad word to speak about another person.

While my parents have thankfully divorced, I find it challenging to maintain a relationship with my father, mostly due to our contradicting views.

My mom was always a beacon of hope in an otherwise austere household that was engulfed in fits of homophobic and racist rants.

While my father would commence his meaningless speeches, my mom made it a point to assure me and my siblings that what he was saying was wholly wrong, and we should love people no matter what their skin color or sexual preferences are.

Try as he did, the man who contributed to 50 percent of me was unable to fill my head anger against minorities.

It may have taken years of therapy for me to clear the fog surrounding the idea of who I thought my father was, but I eventually came to terms with it.

He would never be the man I needed him to be.

There would never be a compassionate bone in his body when I came crying about a breakup or a fight.

There would never be acceptance had I ever disclosed I once had strong feelings for another woman.

There would never be a “Good for you!” when I chose to take adventures and move across the country.

All I knew — and all I will ever truly know — is that one person does not have the power to change another person.

I tried for years to make the man I hesitate to call “dad” understand I’m not the way I am solely to disappoint or enrage him, but to show him just how wrong he is.

He never saw. He never listened.

He never comprehended the meaning of change.

Change only comes when someone can see and accept the fact he or she needs to change.

I spent nearly my entire life wishing so badly my father was more like my friends’ fathers.

I cried myself to sleep many nights wondering why I couldn’t find common ground with someone who shares my blood.

For many of those nights, I blamed myself.

Children are born into this world a clean slate, free of hatred, prejudice, racism, sexism and so on.

It is the job of that child’s parents to feed the child’s soul with beautiful thoughts, an optimistic outlook on life and strong goals.

If a child is born to one parent who projects positivity and love, and another who holds enough hate in his or her heart to rival fairytale villains, that child is in for a rough ride.

I have come across many people who were born into very similar circumstances as my own.

In most cases, their circumstances reflect mine in that their fathers are the catalysts.

I have made friends who can relate to what the last 22 years of my life have been like on a very basic level.

The empathetic looks I get when I describe situations I’ve dealt with in regards to my father have become all too familiar.

I know not all situations are the same.

There are kids in this world living in a perpetual state of anguish over one or both of their parents holding their principles over their children's heads and damning them for disagreeing.

I know every single night across the world, there is a child lying in bed, crying and wondering what he or she can do — or what he or she did wrong — for his or her parent to be projecting such negativity onto him or her.

There is no definite answer.

There is no change, and there is certainly no Hollywood ending to a situation like that.

There is just acceptance.

When parents have made it their mission to breathe as much of their genuinely beautiful outlooks into their children, those children can grasp the idea of acceptance.

I am thankful my mother reminded me — and continues to remind me — we, as human beings, need to come to peace with the fact we cannot change another human.

Once we accept this, our lives will become much clearer.

I have let go of the weight that comes with holding on to the hope that one day my father would become the man I have long wished he would be.

The moment I accepted that was the moment I felt completely at peace in my life for the first time.

I no longer stress out about having a conversation hours or even days before it’s set to happen.

I no longer find myself sick at the thought of having to spend a holiday in an environment of cringe-worthy silence, or worse, confrontation.

I simply live my life in a manner my mother would be proud of, and that is good enough for me.

I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home.

— Joanne Harris, "Five Quarters of the Orange"