Ron Sparks Author, Poet

Racism and Ignorance


I sent my father an email last night that will anger him. I am positive that he won’t talk to me for quite some time as a result of this email. And I’m perfectly fine with that. Allow me to explain.

I come from a largely conservative, Republican, family. I myself am a Libertarian, but I typically do not share my political beliefs with my family and I bite my tongue when political discussions are dinner topics at family gatherings. I know better than to think I can actually change the opinion of my parents or grandparents. And I respect them enough to not call them out when they quote (or misquote) from ignorance.

I have even, in the past, tolerated the old school racism that occasionally rears its ugly head in my family. Most families have some – it’s inescapable. My family knows that I am not racist, that I take offense to it, and as a result most people tend to censor themselves in front of me. No one, after all, wants to appear to be stupidly ignorant. That said, the racism is usually exchanged between “like-minded” individuals in private (email or phone). They “pretend” to be enlightened in front of me yet when I am not around they are openly prejudiced and racist. It’s a pathetic pretense, but one most families have to live with. You try telling your 84-year-old grandfather that his ideas on race are hopelessly outdated and inappropriate today.

I am also largely very respectful of my “elders.” Even when they continually disrespect me. This example is what is the impetus for this blog entry. Day in and day out I receive virtual reams of pro-McCain propaganda from certain family members. I ask, politely, again and again that I not be included in these emails. Not because I find it offensive to support McCain, but because the emails are never factual. My pleas fall on deaf ears.

Conversely, I never, ever, send a political email to my family members. Ever. In the past I did – once or twice. I was very quickly labeled as disrespectful and denounced for insulting my relatives. I learned that it’s OK to send political agendas and ideas to me but I can never respond in kind. Children should be seen and not heard, apparently. Even adult children.

There’s one issue, though. Invariably the email spam that gets forwarded to me is sensationalistic lies and false propaganda. I can’t stand that. I have a threshold of pain on these emails and, when it is hit, I send a polite email to the entire spam list, urging them to check the validity of what they send before actually hit send.

I did that a couple of months ago. I became an “embarrassment” to my father. How dare I admonish his friends and family publicly? How could I embarrass him so?

But I made my point – or so I thought. I was removed from the spam list lest I “lash out” again. The spam list in my family is apparently a frenzied mob that chews up and spits out anything, and I mean anything, that even appears to chastise or criticize them.

Then last night I get another email – political. It is, of course, leaning so far to the right that it’s horizontal. So rather than ask that I be removed – a tact that never works – I found a response to the email that leaned a little to the left and sent it back. I didn’t change a word – it was a spam email just like the ones I get every day.

And I got immediately yelled at for insulting my family. Seriously. I was “disrespectful” and I had insulted my family.

To top it off, someone placed a Barack Obama endorsement on my facebook page. On my wall – the place where my friends leave comments. The endorsement wasnt’ mine. And a family member writes this private email to my father:

With his brother being a military die hard you would think he would take in consideration the fact that the nigar didn’t even take time to say hello to the troops when he paid them a visit.”

This private email was forwarded to me because I was supposed to see how much of an “embarassment” I am to the family. I got angry. Very angry. So I replied to the entire chain with this (excerpt):

Let’s take, for instance, the statement in this email: “you would think he would take in consideration the fact that the nigar didn’t even take time to say hello to the troops when he paid them a visit.”

Do you know this statement to be fact? You do not. In fact – it’s 100% UNTRUE! Just go here and read for yourself: . And yet – you use this falsehood to try and vilify me for your perceived notion of my political beliefs.

Another statement in this email: “With his brother being a military die hard..” What about it? You assume a lot with that statement. You assume that you know what my brother stands for – yet when did you last talk to him? I talk to him daily. I know what he stands for and he knows what I stand for – and he is in no way offended or challenged by my beliefs. He doesn’t need you or anyone else to defend him.

You use the misspelled word “nigar” as a denunciation of Barack Obama – using racism to dismiss a person for no other reason than the color of his skin. Should I assume that this is a “Republican” behavior or should I assume that it’s just you? I find the term highly offensive, especially considering the fact that my step-daughter is a mixed child. How inappropriate.

Lastly – the “Obama endorsement” on my web page. I assume you’re referring to Facebook. If you look closely, you’ll see that I did NOT place it there – it’s in my “Wall” – the place where my friends can leave me messages. One of my friends endorses Obama. As I said – I NEVER share my political views.

And yet – here I am, getting judged by people who obviously don’t know me or respect me enough to ask me. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You owe me an apology.

So here I am – angry and hurt and sharing my feelings on the web. Wearing my feelings on my sleeve for the entire world to see.

I was attacked for my political beliefs by my friends/family. They feel like they have the right to cast judgment on me for what the IMAGINE my political beliefs to be. How absurd. They have not asked me what I believe.

Worse – my family was attacked. My step-daughter is in this family and she’s mixed. I am ashamed of my family for their intolerance. I used to think I was supposed to just accept the “older generation.” They can’t change – as long as they play nice it should be ok. But it’s apparent now that these deep-rooted racims are not something I should endure.

My sister and brother, of course, are very angry – livid even – at this entire ordeal. They share my frustrations.

What do you do in this situation? What should I do?


About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on

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  • Wow… I think I’ve had this exact conversation with my family…sad, really… They do owe you an apology, but unfortunately you are kinda stuck with being the bigger man. Sux, I know… On a funny note, if you look at my Facebook page you can see a couple of my buddies hashing it out over my political affiliations… I will choose not to participate in it…;)

  • This is unbelievable, Ron. Glad to see that you formulated a very mature response. The world doesn’t have room for this kind of bigotry.

  • Ron: You should do everything you already have. And keep in mind that people’s self interest make them prone to double-standards.We owe our families love and, if they don’t abuse us, respect. We never owe them our feelings as a punching bag or a cosignature on their bullsh!#.Your family seeks affirmation of their misinformation and “anti-facts”…or at the very least your silent assent. That’s just wrong of them. If they don’t want your opinion, they shouldn’t share things that will compel you to share it. But they AREN’T shocked that you respond to their baiting. They were looking for it. When you share how you feel, they then try to invalidate and minimize your input – to protect themselves and their flimsy opinions.But you’re not letting them. And you shouldn’t. “Respect” is when people agree to treat each other as equally valid and worthy of dignity. Your family is saying “respect,” but what they really want is for you to keep your ideas to yourself and not threaten theirs.Their expectation that you sit quietly while they offend is the opposite of “respect.” What they owe you, in addition to an apology, is a forthright dialogue where they accept that your views differ from theirs, and why, and ACCEPT that.Or they should keep their fat mouths shut.-Phasmus(long time no see, eh?)

  • Your response was very polite and matter of fact. We must confront our family members when they make racist or obviously false statements. They are usually surprised that someone so close, does not agree with them. It makes them think, and question themselves, if only silently. Also, you may find out that you are not alone. Someone else on that distribution may share your views, but may have no guts to say so….I used to argue with my grandmother, and with my brother. A couple of days ago I had to ask a guy, with whom I went to high school, not to send racist jokes to me. It is easy to give in to hatred. Sometimes an unpleasant encounter with some individual of different race, religion, party, or nationality, can trigger a hatred of the whole group.It is hard to stay polite and objective.Keep up the good work.

  • Damn, brother! I see your dad hasn’t changed. ::sigh::I know how you feel with it-I got lots of that sort of thing at work, cos the military seems to run on Fox News with no inclination to do basic fact-checking…::sigh::James

  • Just read your post here cousin and as a member of your family, our family, all I can say is it is something we have to to just live with. You know how are family is, this side is no different from yours they were both raised by the same parents and learned all the same stuff. We can’t change them and it is just a waste of our time to try. I game up long ago. Although I do love to argue now and again just to have fun. But all in all I just sigh and let it go. And yes we are still children with no opinions or thoughts, yes grown children. That stubburn Anderson side I suppose. Take care cousin and hang tough is only thing I can think to tell you.

  • You are doing everything right. And continued good vibes & prayers to you on your survival! I have squamous cell, but mets now and will keep on fightin' the dragon. I was Head Neck IV in 2/2006, so it is a blessing to still be here. Ain't life grand?

  • Thanks Sammie! I was Head & Neck III last year and, so far, no more mets to deal with. Fingers crossed. You keep fighting the dragon! It can be slain.

  • What can I say…it’s family. I feel bad for your step-daughter. Hopefully you and your wife will be able to protect her from such ignorance. If not, she will have to develop some good communication and tolerance skills–as you have already.

    • Well, a couple of years later, the family member that sent that racism email still won’t talk to me, but I really could care less.

      Acceptance has been embraced in my family, especially since mom died six months ago – the idiocy of yesterday pales now for some reason. Plus, mom was one truly welcoming and non-racist person in the “older generation” and with her passing I think a lot of them are beginning to see the wisdom in her quiet acceptance of everything.

      Thanks for the reply, Cordie. BTW – how did you find my blog?

  • I’m behind again I guess, I have to say I’m with you on this one Mr.Biker. When we first moved to that little Ranch style home, there was an openhouse type party, and my dad invited a fellow by the name of Kris Brewer to it. Well Kris and his family were not white. My dad was raised very different than I was and at the time of this party it was not heard of inviting outside you race to anything like that, but he still did. Kris was one of his friends and that was that. Now thats not to say he was not pregudice, because he really was, but not as much as a lot of people from his era. I think from his example we learned to be even more excepting, and I think the generation after me is better and I hope the one after them is even better.

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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