‘Dear Culture’: Revisiting the story of ‘How Trump ruined my relationship with my white mother’
OPINION: It’s been five years since I wrote an article that impacted my life and family; a lot happened in that time.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Just over five years ago, I wrote an article that had unforeseen consequences on my family. Titled “How Trump Ruined My Relationship with my White Mother,” the article was published on Very Smart Brothas/The Root on Aug. 18, 2017. Like most of the things I’ve written and continue to write, I put my thoughts on the blank page and then sent the story to be edited and moved on. Rarely do I dwell on something I just wrote. That piece was no different. I was upset and hurt when I wrote it because of the personal situation going on with my mother behind the scenes. I can honestly say that I didn’t expect it to become what it did: a viral article that had people sending me emails (which still happens today, but not as frequently; every so often, somebody reads the article and sends me an email), thousands of comments and requests for comment in print and television. And my mother had no idea.
Despite the fact that my mother was proud of what I did for a living and proud that I had an opportunity to use my talents and voice to earn a living, she rarely, if ever, READ anything I wrote. I think if she had, a lot of the issues we had would have been addressed over time as opposed to becoming the focal point of a year-long stand-off that resulted in hurt feelings, family silence and a lot of pain. I have to take a lot of responsibility for this; I never told my mother about the article, assuming that it would just fade away over time, which it did. But I didn’t count on my mother hopping onto social media and coming across the article by accident. I’m as much at fault for the continued pain (in my mind) as she was for causing it in the first place.
I wrote that first article and pretty much left it alone after that. I didn’t want to talk to media outlets or newspapers because, in order to do that, my mother would have to be brought into the conversation, and because she and I weren’t in a good place, I couldn’t imagine trying to work out our issues publicly. Plus, it hurt. A lot. I don’t think I ever gave much space to or processed my feelings. So I never wrote a follow-up to the piece where I discussed what had happened since.
In all my years of writing and doing public speaking events, “How are you and your mom?” or “Whatever happened with you and your mom?” are the questions I’ve been asked the most. On a few occasions, I’ve spoken about it and used our situation as a tool for finding ways to meet in the middle, but I shied away from doing it publicly. My mother was very upset about the article and told me never to write about her again and to never speak about it again. Even legal action was…implied.
Here’s the thing: My mother and I, we got back right. We finally talked and aired out everything. There was a lot we clearly needed to talk about, a lot of family things that were impacting us. We rediscovered how to be a mother-and-son duo. And thankfully that happened because, on February 8, 2022, my mother passed away. She’d been sick for a while but it was still unexpected. Her passing has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, and I’ve seen a lot of death close to me. But losing a mother…is losing a mother. I’ve been working through it, as has my sister, and I always said I owed it to my mother to tell the rest of the story so she knew that the world (or whoever was interested) would know we were OK and loved each other, that this episode didn’t end our family.
In this two-part episode (part two will release next week), I’m going to do just that. I’m going to talk about what happened to get us to that place and what happened after. It’s not all pretty, but we found our way back. I owed it to her to tell the rest of our story, so I will.
I love you, ma. I miss you, ma.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.