As discussed in Part I of this series, family can often be the core component of life. For Smoochie Setzke, this is also the case. Smoochie Setzke is a Native American, Hispanic, and white woman who was born and raised in Colorado. Uniquely, even with a diverse background, Setzke’s grandparents raised her in a white household, but in a Hispanic neighborhood. Fast forward to her first marriage to a black man, where she lived in Georgia in predominately black neighborhoods. She felt as though she grew and matured in a black environment, but since being back in Denver, Colorado, she feels as though she does not have an immediate connection to any specific culture. She said, “I live in a pretty white world right now, but it’s often very uncomfortable because I am ultra-sensitive to privilege and all the topics surrounding that. I do not identify as white, it’s just not who I am.”
Growing up, Setzke’s family was quite poor. Her grandparents worked hard to provide for her, but she still had to work two jobs while going to school. This alone shows the important role her grandparents played throughout her life. Not only was this a challenge, but growing up as a Native American, Hispanic, and white girl came with its hardships. As I said before, her grandparents were white.
She said, “On both sides, I felt some exclusion. As I got older, I lightened up and am often seen as Caucasian, which is, of course, part of my background.”
To relate all of this to the importance of family, Setzke brought her children up.
She said, “As a mom, I had to think about how I could empower my kids to embrace all parts of their heritage. As they grew, I was forced to use the privilege that goes along with it to advocate for them and for other people of color.”
In just a few words, Setzke demonstrated the importance of family and the love she has for hers. Family support and love may really be the solution to all things.
As I said before, Setzke has two children – one son and one daughter. I talked to her about the reasons why they identify differently from each other.
She said, “they are very different people. My son is much more “white” culturally, and my daughter is more connected to her blackness, although both of these are not set in stone.”
It was interesting to me when she talked about how as her son has grown, he has started to understand what it means to be a black male in America and how it makes him different from his white friends. She talked about how she never intruded on their lives as they were growing up, in terms of choosing their friends or their paths for them.
“I have always supported their curiosity and opportunities to explore new things. Ultimately, we are who we are, but if we aren’t given that freedom to be than it creates cookie cutter people. I have never wanted that for my kids,” she said.
“I have always supported their curiosity and opportunities to explore new things. Ultimately, we are who we are, but if we aren’t given that freedom to be, than it creates cookie cutter people. I have never wanted that for my kids.”
Not only has Smoochie Setzke inspired me with her story and work ethic, but also with her love and passion for her family. Diversity, culture, hardships, and family has gotten her to where she is today. She said, “I think the other thing is being open, humble, and grateful. While many experiences were really hard, I am grateful that I had them. It really taught me to appreciate the good.” If this quote does not exude the traits of Setzke, I don’t know what does. Truly special.