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