Confessions of a Reformed Racist

(Please be warned. There will be some very graphic and offensive language in this post.)

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“She’s really smart… for a black girl.”

“There’s a difference between a black person and a nigger. A black person wants to be decent, like a white person. A nigger doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone.”

“It disgusts me. Seeing those spics earn American dollars and not spending a dime of it here.”

“I will not stay in the same room as that lesbo! What if she tries something while I’m asleep?”

I have a big confession to make. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I said all of these things.

* * * * *

By the time I was in high school, I had eaten hate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. I didn’t even know it was racism. I just accepted what I heard. The Mexicans were taking all our jobs. The blacks cry racism when they have far more opportunities than whites. The chinks and Indians were taking work that good hard-working Americans deserved. The gays were ruining the country.

Dad was the worst, but I never saw it. How could a Native American be racist? They’re an oppressed people too. His best friend was a black man. He was a good God-fearing man. He was accepting of my gay friends. I thought…

It took distance to see it.

I moved out and immediately had someone tell me how slightly racist I sounded. I wasn’t, though! I couldn’t be. I had black friends, I was super nice to the Mexicans I worked with. Sure, Asians were always pushing me out of their way, but I never pushed back or raised my voice at them. I was super accepting of my gay friends. I just made excuses for them for “turning gay”.

I ignored the signs. How could I see them when I was certain that was the way every person in the world thought?

The longer I was away from home, the more I would hear the hate.

Then it happened, like a giant floodlight shining light into every chamber of my mind, I realized I was a racist too.

I was never a Confederate flag-swinging, sheet-wearing, brick-throwing racist. I was the kind that mumbled biased and unfair comments under my breath, the kind that tensed her shoulders when a black person walked past me, the kind that scrunched her nose when someone mentioned gay marriage.

The more I heard myself, the more I hated the person I was. How did it come to this? How could I change my perception?

It turns out that realizing is half the battle. After that, I did what I knew was right. I pointed out racism and prejudice when I saw it, and as I started to pick this up, it triggered something in my own brain when I was thinking or saying or doing something racist.

I’m far from perfect but moving out of Texas proved to be one of the best things for me.

I was just not prepared in 2016 to see that the blatant racism I saw in a minority of people was actually in a large majority. In November, I was so upset about the news that I didn’t eat for a whole day. I was sick with grief. I could not understand how anyone could support such a racist, and then it occurred to me…

Racists don’t know they are; they don’t see it. They can’t accept it, because it’s all around them. They aren’t born that way; they are taught it from birth.

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For some reason, though, they never had the same moment I did. I was lucky that someone pointed it out to me. We need more people like that. Those willing to shine a giant floodlight on racism, and those willing to see the truth and do something about it.

There will still be words like niggers, chinks, spics, redskins, abos, and towelheads. Stuff will still be “gay” instead of “lame” and ridiculous words like lady-men and dykes in hushed conversations. And you know what?! It’s not fucking okay! Honestly.

We shouldn’t be labelling people, beliefs, sexuality, anything. We’re all the same.  We love. We experience joy and frustration. We cry when we’re hurt or when we lose someone. If our finger is cut, we all bleed the same color of blood. We worry about how we can pay our bills and put food on the table. We wonder if this will be the year that the missiles get launched or the next big superbug will take us home.

We are human beings, and it’s time we treated each other as such.

I have no idea how it can be done. All I know is that I’m sorry for ever being that way and saying those things, for saying them again here in the spirit of transparency. I hate all the hateful words I said or thought or wrote. I hate that I didn’t see it sooner. But mostly, I hate that I can’t change the world.

But maybe we can.

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14 thoughts on “Confessions of a Reformed Racist

  1. Best line “By the time I was in high school, I had eaten hate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. ” You were taught to hate/fear the other as are many people. You, my friend are brave, you have faced yourself honestly and made a choice to change what you saw. You are a hero!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your honesty is admirable Mel. This is really well paced and told beautifully over the snapshots of memories you’ve used. This is a strong piece and you’ve done a great job with it.

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  3. This is vulnerable work you are doing, Mel. I think it would be an interesting exercise to write a story about a time you were called out for behaving in a racist way and what it was or WHO it was that got through to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. its amazing what people will figure out given time. not that people shouldnt be called out for being racist, i just wouldnt build a cult out of it. its bound to become full of double standards, hypocrisy, and entirely self-serving. (sort of like the patriarchy, amirite?)

      ive met racists that actually believe they cant stop– like theyre going to be stuck that way forever. but they dont want their kids to be racist. i think if they were indoctrinated to love people, or browbeaten into their current point of view, they would do more than just wish the viewpoint on their kids. they probably got their on their own, though. of course you can call people out on racism without browbeating or smug superiority or indoctrination (but shh, dont tell anyone!) that would be an interesting exercise too 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Dy. I have admitted I am not perfect. This is something that I’ve been working on for almost fifteen years, not just overnight, as your links may suggest. I just felt I needed to say something now because I feel the matter to be growing even more dire than ever before.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. loving everyone is fine (and good.) letting people hijack that love to insert their political ideology… *been there, done that.*

        good luck: you dont have to accept any particular set of views to avoid going back to your old racist self. its not a package deal, where you have to throw away trust in your own ability to process and self-evaluate truth in order to “finally reach” your goal of humanity. youre already human– youre doing fine, keep going. but dont let anyone dictate (only a suggestion.) trust your heart to continue evolving like it has this far– while attached to your head and your critical thinking. some people will tell you its not good enough. it is, though– it will continue to serve you, just as critical thinking got you this far when you (quite rightly) questioned your racism. ❤

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