“An Interview with Gene Wright, Sr.” by Kieth Wright

The person that I chose to help me complete my Elder Blog assignment was my grandfather Gene Wright Sr. I chose my grandfather because he exemplifies an alternative type of masculinity than what we hear about in popular culture.

Interview between myself and my grandfather Gene Wright Sr:

 ME: So Mr. Wright Where did you grow up at?

GENE: I grew up right here in Fresno Ca, been here 70 years and I plan to stay the rest of my years.

ME: Tell me about how it was growing up, like in your teenage years.

GENE: Well I graduated from Edison High School in 1960 when I was 17 years old. At 18 your grandmother and myself got married and started our family. I met your grandmother at 13 and we had been together throughout high school, she was my high school sweetheart. Back in my day we worked, my parents didn’t have money for college like you do (speaking to me).

ME: So what was your first job as an 18-year-old workingman with a wife and a kid?

GENE: My first job was working with my father. My father worked on cars, did yard work, washed windows, painted houses; he was an all around man.

ME: What did you learn from him when you were working with him as a young adult?

GENE: My father taught me work ethic; he would work 2 and 3 jobs a day, sun up until sundown and never complained. He never took a day off he worked every damn day to take care of us.

ME: So when did you start working at Rainbow?

GENE: I started working at Rainbow in 1974. I worked that bakery for 26 years until I retired in 2000.

ME: That’s more years then I’ve been alive. So what do you think about this generation of kids?

GENE: Kids have it easy these days. You guys have all types of programs and resources but don’t take advantage of them. Kids are lazy nowadays, they don’t even like to go to school anymore.

ME: I see where you’re coming from. What’s different about your generation compared to mine?

GENE: Boys used to fight in my day, then shake hands and go home and ill see you tomorrow. Nowadays you have boys have guns, you guys don’t go to church and most of you are just lazy. It’s much different nowadays.

ME: What’s your definition of masculinity?

GENE: Taking care of business, taking care of your family. Most importantly don’t be afraid to be YOU.

ME: Do you think blacks have a harder time than others?

GENE: Yes, that’s not even a question. As a Black man prepare for a life of stress (laughs). But by knowing that, you know it requires you to work 2 times as hard as anyone else. You have to.

ME: If you could change one thing what would it be?

GENE: Nothing, struggling made me strong. Always remember that God’s favorites have a hard time. Read the book of Job and you’ll get a different perspective on struggle.

ME: Anything else?

GENE: Don’t waste time. You don’t have much time to waste while you’re here. Use your opportunities and take advantage of your resources.

By watching my grandfather all my life I developed a different viewpoint on Black men. Now that I am older and understand all the things a Black man has to go through, I can appreciate how strong my grandfather really is. He showed me an example of masculinity that goes against the stereotypes that have plagued Black men forever.

The Sambo stereotype says that Black men are lazy, child like and basically have no purpose in life. My grandfather counteracted the Sambo stereotype because before he retired from work he was the exact opposite of lazy. He worked six days a week, never called in sick or took days off from being too tired. He was able to take care of his family in a legal way. He didn’t have to sell drugs or do other things to provide for his family he just worked hard.

The Brute stereotype describes Black men as hyper-aggressive, hypersexual and unintelligent. My grandfather countered the stereotype of the Brute also; he showed me that all men do not take advantage of women. My grandfather and grandmother were together for 5 years before marriage and were married for 45 years until my grandmother passed away in 2006. All 4 of their children are of the same mother and father and I never heard of my grandfather having affairs with other women. That alone sets him apart from most men because there’s a very small population of Black men who can say that they were with the same woman for 50 consecutive years. My grandfather also counters the Brute stereotype because he’s far from unintelligent. He was able to maintain a job for 26 years, maintain a 50-year marriage and was able to raise his children to become the people that we are today.

The third stereotype that my grandfather counters is the stereotype of the coon. The coon is described as an Uncle Tom, a sellout or as entertainment for whites. I believe my grandfather counters the coon stereotype because he doesn’t try to live up to what others want him to be. He does what he feels is best for his family and his situation. He’s very proud to be a Black man, and embraces his blackness. I think that’s where I developed my spirit of Black pride. 

If I had to sum up my grandfather in one word I would call him consistent. I chose consistent because as a young adult he had the same personality that he has now as a 70 year old man.

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