His Racist Son
Dreamed 1994/1/8 by Chris Wayan
I've been feeling allergic for weeks. But it's winter; no pollen out there. At bedtime, I asked my dreams "Why so sick lately? Could I be reacting to something indoors?"
I'm on the roof with one of my brothers. Funny, I thought I only had sisters! My dad's in the house on a ladder below us, drilling up through the roof. It's a new way to install TV antenna-cable. The old way required pushing it into the space between walls, and it always got stuck. Tedious! But by chopping big holes in the roof, you can pull it right through.
Leaks? Well, we tore through where an old trap door was already leaking every winter. We can't make it much worse!
I peer through the trapdoor frame, down the ladder. Its rungs are numbered. There are over 30, maybe 35! Wow, high ceilings in there. Though the roof is pitched, I didn't fear falling off nearly as much as I do now, as I realize just how high up I am.
As I descend, rung by rung, I see my father is already on another project: he's hanging pieces of wood, 2x4s or 1x2s, on wall, assembling them into a sort of crude line-drawing, the bust of a man: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States during the Civil War. A shrine to the Confederacy! My father is a segregationist and racist; he teaches us to avoid black people. I'm so embarrassed. As he's aged, he's just gotten worse--more and more blatant.
Now our apartment block or city block is having a meeting to discuss racial harassment. But no one comes, except my family--which is CAUSING most of the incidents--and one black man, our next door neighbor. And he brings a book to read, doesn't say a word.
But the city sends a psychologist to evaluate me--the racist son.
Now my viewpoint jumps to her! I'm a psychologist examining the test responses of this racist boy. It's an effort to recall that moments ago I was him. The child's responses are unambiguous--he's clinically paranoid! I tell the father quietly, but the boy overhears. But it doesn't bother him: "paranoid" is so commonly used for merely suspicious or cautious in his generation that I suppose it means nothing much to him.
But I mean it clinically. He has something metabolically wrong. I trace the father's history. He was in India many years ago at the time of a notorious chemical spill near Calcutta--not Bhopal, much smaller, but serious. The boy was born there, and I suspect that's where the problem began. Fetal abnormalities were common all through Bengal that year. This is a physical illness!
Yet there's something wrong here. While I (as psychologist) am sure the test proves this clinical paranoia is based on a chemical abnormality, I (as the son) know perfectly well that my father taught me to fear and hate black people, and to preach race-hatred and a return to segregation!
And to her face, my dad acts innocent... "I have no IDEA why my son has these weird, sick beliefs."
And the social worker buys it. I'm a sick, sick boy. Probably brain-damaged.
While back home, in his shrine to the Confederacy, a candle is burning...
I gave the soap away. The allergies promptly vanished.
But the dream warns not all my problems are metabolic! My dad trained me to segregate and even enslave my shadow-sides! I exploit my dreams, feelings, and intuitions--oh, I paint my dreams, but rarely ACT on their advice.
I thought this nasty mix of exploitation and denial came from my mom; I saw her as the heavy in our family.
But this dream warns that my dad's legacy is equally toxic. Just better-masked.
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