Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community

By Beverly Daniel Tatum | Go to book overview

3
A Long Way from Home

For someone from a small Southern town or an East Coast city, this California coastal community literally is a long way from home. But distance can be measured in more than just miles, and even those born and raised in California, or even other parts of Sun Beach, might feel a long way from the places of their childhood. After all, the question, "Where are you from?" can have as much to do with psychology as it does geography.

Table 2 summarizes some of the demographic characteristics of the participants' families of origin. Geographically speaking, the overwhelming majority of these families have their roots in Southern, mostly rural communities. They grew up during a time period when legally sanctioned segregation was the order of the day. That fact in itself places these Sun Beach families in a very different social context than that of their families of origin. In addition, they have a much higher level of education as a group than their parents had. While all but 2 of the participants have had some educational training beyond high school, slightly more than half of their parents never made it to high school. Children of what most described as working-class families, they now describe themselves as middle- class. Raised in households full of children (half had 6 or more siblings), their own households barely average 2 children per family.

Unquestionably the demographic differences between one generation and the next are considerable. How much distance has been placed between that past and this present? To what extent are the themes of one generation echoed in the next? Retrospectively, how do these men and women view their own upbringing? The participants were asked to discuss various aspects of their early home life, including how money, house- work, education, religion, and recreation were handled within the family. The following is a sampling of some of the men's recollections.

One man, raised in California, recounts:

We lived in the poor part of town, but I can remember statements made by my grandmother and grandfather, "You'll always have plenty to eat." I've never seen them unable to to come up with the bail money, lunch money, the new clothes, the new shoes . . . but I can remember when they

-33-

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Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies Series Advisers: John W. Blassingame and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. *
  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1 - Invisible Families and Black Family Research 1
  • 2 - Welcome to Sun Beach 17
  • 3 - A Long Way from Home 33
  • 4 - Troubled in Paradise? 51
  • 5 - Nowhere to Run -- 75
  • 6 - Making Choices 89
  • Bibliography 105
  • Index 111
  • About the Author 113
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