I’m going to do something that is completely out of my comfort zone. It’s not normal for me to talk about politically-charged subjects, but it’s time a few of us speak out.
I want to talk about racism.
I know I won’t affect people with the eloquence of some who write about tough subjects all the time. But, I have to give it a shot. I know I won’t always be politically correct, and I am sure I’ll put my foot in my mouth a time or two, but this is necessary.
White males like me have been sitting on the sidelines while the battle has been raging. I feel like I can’t be silent anymore.
Yes, I’m white and a male, but I don’t think I grew up with any privilege I can think of. Except for the free ride I get from being male and winning the melanin lottery, I’ve had a tough life.
I grew up dirt poor. I was the subject of ridicule because we were poor and because of my family’s religious beliefs. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unlike the other children, I didn’t get to do things like celebrating birthdays or Christmas.
I don’t know if the kids didn’t understand or that by nature they are assholes, but my life was full of teasing and bullying.
Part of my life, I lived in Louisiana. I had both white and black friends. I’d like to say that skin color didn’t matter, but that wouldn’t be true.
My white friends and their parents often said terrible things about black people. They said things I hadn’t heard growing up in the north. Around the Kingdom Hall (a fancy term that JW’s use for church), everyone used the n-word like it meant nothing.
Being in such a racially-charged environment affected me. As a white male, everyone expected me to have the same view on other races. I would be lying if I said I didn’t join in and say the n-word. I told jokes, I said degrading things, and I added to the atmosphere of hate.
We moved away from the south a few years later. But the attitude I had against people from other races continued to get worse. While I didn’t march with a confederate flag, I was hateful to black people and people of other races. It was in private because I was, in fact, a coward.
When MTV came out, black artists started to gain recognition. I always had something negative to say. If somebody black cut me off in traffic, I yelled the n-word when I raised the middle finger.
I was a shitty, angry, and hateful asshole. And as much as other people won’t admit this, all my friends were as bad as I was.
As I got older, my circle of friends grew to include everyone. It started to be not so colorless and inclusive.
I moved near the Navajo reservation. Many of my friends and drinking partners were Native American. I learned to be accepting of people who were different than I was.
Later, I went to school and worked with people from many walks of life. I learned to be even more accepting.
My real education came when I moved to Boston, and my dearest and closest friend was black. I didn’t pay much attention to color in our relationship, because we were so much alike. But often, the conversation would turn to race, or I would say something stupid. I said things that I didn’t think were racist but were. Gabe always corrected me gently. But I knew I had disappointed him in more ways than one.
There were times he would talk about what it was like to be black in America. It was shocking because I had privilege. I never had to deal with someone hating me like that. Although he loved me like a brother, he knew that I, and people like me, were part of the problem.
As I get older and smarter, I spend more time reading and learning about other’s lives who are different than me. I still catch myself once in a while saying something degrading about another person. But now I always correct my behavior.
I know that people with privilege like me need to be the people who help make the change in this world.
Now that we are in the age of Trump, the nastiness that people keep hidden has come out. I cringe at what has become the new norm. People who you wouldn’t think in a million years would be racist are showing their true colors.
I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, but I regret what a shitty person I was all those years. Part of it came from the environment I grew up in, but how much of it was because I chose to be ignorant?
How can I go on with my life and be happy if I don’t do something about the hate I see in the world?
What can an unimportant dude like me do about racism?
I can do a lot.
I’ve been calling out those who hide their racism from the world. You know, the ones who whine, “I’m not racist; I have black friends!” while at the same time allowing racist dialogue to go on in their circle of influence.
I can use my talent for writing to expose the culture that many like me grew up in. That culture perpetuates the problems we have with race.
I realize telling people that I was racist my whole life won’t make me any friends. But if one other person feels moved by what I say to change their ways, it would be worth it.
What if I inspired another white person to look around and see what is really going on in society? Then all the negativity I get from revealing my nature will be worth it.
People can change. I changed the way I looked at people. I started admitting there is a problem with racism in the world.
If I can change, anyone can.
The white males in this world need to admit that the way we’ve lived our lives all these years is a huge part of the problem with race.
We need to admit we were wrong!