Inheriting Respect

. . . You can't.

I've encountered too many people who believe that certain abilities, privileges, and even problems are passed down through the blood. It's part of that whole "it's who you know" thing: People seem more willing to take you seriously if you were "born into" a field, an organization, a profession, whatever . . . and people seem less likely to take you seriously if you come from a family that has problems.

Both of my grandparents on my father's side had vocal music careers. Their children (my aunt and my dad) are an artist and a pretty good pianist (respectively). And my father's children (me and my sisters Patricia and Lindsay) can all sing well and have varying degrees of artistic talent. Now, how much are you willing to bet that if I were to become famous for singing and people found out who my grandmother was, they would pinch my cheeks and say, "Oh, she must get it from Marceline!" I'm not sure how much my vocal ability has to do with heredity--it might (and probably does) have something to do with it--yet at the same time, if I worked hard to train my voice, it's still my accomplishment. Not to mention there are those who have no history of singers in their families who sing quite well. My point is, you don't have to have it in your blood to be legit, and you're not necessarily legit just because you have the blood.

How about royalty? Who says that because you were born of a king and a queen, you're more fit to rule a country? It doesn't come in the genes, and it might not come in the upbringing either. Just stating that you were born of royal stock does not mean diddly squat in itself. Birthright has been an excuse all throughout history to discriminate and take advantage of other people; it was (and still is) the reason for much slavery, privilege, even business deals . . . and there's no basis for it whatsoever.

Some religious sects won't let you in (or at the very least don't give you the same respect) if you were not born of a certain family. If you were not born Jewish (especially if you were--oy gevalt!--raised Christian), to some Jewish people you will always be looked upon as second best even if you convert and are more devoted to Judaism than some conservatives. If you married in, some people will give you the title of shiksa or shkutz and you're not looked at as an equal. Is it your fault you weren't born into a Jewish family? No, no one can help what they're born to. And yet many Jewish people might tell you, if you begin to accept and embrace the Jewish faith, that you are not one of God's chosen people--if you were you would have been born a Jew--and therefore you have no business becoming Jewish. End of story. I think that's sad. Same with some other spiritual belief systems, such as some Pagan groups who seem to believe that being born into the fold carries some honors and rights that people born as outsiders cannot hold or cannot appreciate. Especially since Wicca and Witchcraft are becoming sort of "hip" these days (ugh, it's trendy), some people who've practiced the Craft since they were children are thinking it's making them sound more like "the real thing" to say they're "hereditary." Not that being "hereditary" and saying so is wrong, and not that there's anything wrong with being happy that you've had the privilege to be raised with your religion (whatever it may be); I just think it's wrong to treat people who *weren't* raised with it as if they are fakers, or not as much of an authority as you, or as if they don't have the same rights to embrace/practice/preach your religion just because you were born to it and they were not. I think religion is a *personal* thing, and that if someone is coming to the religion you embrace without having been pointed that way since birth, it's a credit to that person, wouldn't you say?

I must add the disclaimer here that being raised with something, anything (an art or talent in your family, a religion, a business, whatever) increases your chances of having that thing show up in your life. Being born to Christian parents greatly increases the likelihood that you will be Christian, and grow up to teach Christianity to your children, more because it's familiar and was billed in early life as part of the threads of a good person's moral system than because you think it's right. And then again, look at my family. My father's Jewish, my mother converted to Judaism because it was desirable at the time by several parties to have Jewish children . . . but I ended up following a sort of atheistic Paganism, and neither of my sisters consider themselves Jewish either.

What about if you come from a long line of unstable people? "I have a history of mental illness in my family." What do you think job interviewers would say if they knew that? Even if you'd never exhibited any mental illness, if you came from a long line of people with mental problems, it's likely people would interpret every little sign as proof that you'd inherited it too. Likely you'd begin to believe it, too. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina, like a lot of girls do, and I was convinced that the fact that my mother was a cheerleader and loved to dance meant that I had it in me. ::snarf:: Nothing could be further from the truth. I can't dance worth a crap and I probably couldn't then either. But I bet I would have been able to if I'd ever pursued dancing lessons to any degree.

I think the main reason for this rambling essay is to make one point: You have to earn your accomplishments. You can't just be born with them. I'm not dissing "talent," or ranting because I'm bitter that I don't have any--far from it! I'm better than average at many of the things I do, and most of them have come easily to me as if I was born to do them, but I still had to try. Mariah Carey was born with an amazing vocal range but she still had to learn to use her voice, perform songs, and do something to get discovered. Einstein was born with the capacity to understand complex concepts, but he still had to think about them, put them down on paper, and share them. And millions of families hold values, belief systems, talents, and liabilities that do not "rub off," so to speak, on their children.

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Comments from others:

Mikey: Indeed I think that you must earn your accomplishments. That statement is so very true.I hate being prejudged or thought that "well that should come natural" very good point.

Mar: Although I agree with you, but the reason why people might do that is because of genetics. It is more likely that a child of two parents that are really good at something will have that "talent" as well. So it seems that with the whole science happening psychology and biology - people belive that unless you are BORN to do it, you'll never be as good as the one who did.
Also corroletional studies show that if a parent was alcoholics it is more likely for a child to be one too (same for mental ilnesses, tree and apple and all that). Even for religion, they found out that there is such a thing as spirituality gene. Buddhists, for example do have an idea of a spirituality gene we inherit. I am convinced that it is the same for those wiccans you mentioned "they have something you dont in their blood" for jewish peopleI belive it has something to do with the actual religion, seeing as they are "gods chosen people" and it is "their god" as oposed to christianities more universal outlook. Then again, many people dont have to earn anything because of ther heredity! like extreme example if you were the son of bill gates it would be easier to acomplish academics for example, because you dont need to worry about money, and tutoring versus the other person who needs to go the other mile and perhaps not achive cause he needs to work for the family and all...

The whole thing reminds me of how people used to thing in the Feudal times.

D.: I've never believed that talent was genetic. I have seen so many people who were born to artistic failures that could produce beautiful things. And I have seen the opposite, and I think that is worse, more for the child because of what they end up hearing. "Oh I see you didn't get any of your parents' talent. It must have been used up on them!" or my favorite "They must be saving it up for your brother or sister!" How kind. Sure, you may start with natural talent, but that doesn't mean it's genetic. You aren't going to be amazing the moment you pick up a pencil. You have to LEARN to do it.

You know, this reminds me of the "gay is genetic" argument. Which I don't agree with either. You aren't genetically predisposed to love/like/be attracted to a gender. If that were true, I wouldn't be gay. (yes I did mention a girlfriend previously, and if you want to know why I say both things that would technically make me bi, feel free to email me about it). Upbringing doesn't even always have a factor in it, because my father is generally closeminded and my mother is violently closeminded about homosexuality and bisexuality and I was taught that it was wrong, and there was something wrong in your mind, and so on and so forth. But I don't believe that. Once upon a time I didn't understand it, but I also didn't agree with my parents.