If we do this with our “mother duck,” is it possible we do it in lots of other ways too? How do we rewire our initial impressions of certain experiences from our young years?
My dad (he’s gone now) was a young child in Birmingham Alabama in the 30s;
his middle class parents employed a black woman to take care of him as a wee youngster; this was standard practice from what I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong…which is always an outstanding invitation here on my blog posts).
Even though my father spent his life trying to be progressive and supportive of civil rights on many levels, it seems to me that he could not escape this initial impression of how things were-– he was “imprinted” to feel the world in this fundamental way– black people were mostly poor, and black women were supposed to take care of children and clean houses. I tried calling him out on this, but he fervently denied it, citing evidence of his view of equal rights and being on the right side of history. I was not accusing him of being a bigot or a “bad guy” in the larger narrative. But what I observed, not only in him, but in myself and others, is the power and stronghold of these early experiences, these “imprints” of race and class. As he aged, and had to have caregivers and other support people, I saw this awful truth–he was so condescending to the men and women of color (that would be most of them) who were in his home and tending to his needs. It felt like super-hard-wiring. They were servants. And no matter how much I tried to change his attitude, it was down there deep, beyond reasoning and perspective.
Is this his fault somehow? Perhaps he just didn’t have the tools or the need to dig deep enough to question some of these primary influences… I am not justifying or excusing his treatment of the caregivers. Nor am I trying to place him on the wrong side of history. But this fascinates and troubles me — how strong are these initial impressions on us, and can we overcome them as the society evolves around us?
Of course we could spin this thread — and maybe we should — applying it to an array of our current perceptions, linking them to childhood impressions — how and why and when do these perceptions shift? or perhaps they do not shift at all?
Can we wrest “mother duck” out of our little duckling brains and see the possibility that we might have new “mothers” when we cross the stream?
Do you have imprint stories or ideas you can share? “Got Science?” to share? Hope to hear from you…