Former Racists Reveal What Made Them Reevaluate Their Thought Process
The news reports these last few years have spotlighted a nation inflamed by racial tensions. Between the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, the burning of African American churches, the murders of innocent people of color at traffic stops (to name a few things), it can seem like we're living in a dark and oppressive time.
But even times like these have rays of light, as we learned when Killer-of-dead6- asked: "Ex-Racists of reddit what event or events changed you?"
"My father is an avid user..."
My father is an avid user of the n-word and in general, has some quite racist opinions, which I inherited. In fourth grade, I switched schools from a school with mostly white kids to one with people from everywhere. That's where I found some new friends with a big mixture of ethnicities. One day I go to a friends house and he has some friends there and we play video games. At one point I look up and realized I'm the only white person in this room. Before I always thought of POC as different, there I realized that I was the different one. Ergo: If we all can be "the different one" we are all the same.
"I come from a family of racists."
I come from a family of racists. They spoke of other (than whites) races using ethnic slurs as common as commenting on the weather.
When I was about 5, my older brother and i went into the local bakery to pick up an order for our mom who was waiting in the car. A black boy was in front of us in line. This was something i hadn't often seen and i said very loudly to my brother, look it's a n-r!
My brother quickly shushed me,which made me very confused, but it was the crushed look on the boy's face that made me start to question my family's viewpoint.
Over 40 years later, I have a very diverse friend group, but still feel shame on how I made that boy feel those many years ago.
"I started a construction job."
I started a construction job. Hispanics are some of the nicest, funniest people you'll ever meet. The language barrier even adds to the hilarity. It was an eye opener that these guys are just trying to make a living and go home, just like me. Landing this job has changed my view on ALL races and I'm very happy it did. You can't just HATE someone for their distance from the equator.
"Grew up in a town..."
Grew up in a town with no black people. Dad was very racist. So naturally I grew up racist. Joined the military and was forced to hang out with a melting pot of races. Straightened me out.
"The idea that a black person..."
My father was a racist just like his father before him. My dad did his best to indoctrinate me and my brother with his racist ways of thinking. I believed my dad's philosophy was truth until I entered first grade. That year I was sat next to the only black girl in my class. Naturally, I hated her immediately. She was more outspoken than most kids I knew, which I considered to be rude, and her style of diction was different from what I was used to, which made it difficult for me to understand her at first.
However as I was forced to interact with her throughout the year, I learned that she was everything my preconceived notions said she shouldn't have been. She was sweet, kind, funny, and intelligent. She helped me grasp the concept of arithmetic and was easily the best speller in our class.
The idea that a black person could have all of those positive attributes, especially intelligence that surpassed that of a white person flew in the face of what I had been taught all my life up to that point. Knowing that girl was the single experience that made me first question, doubt, and eventually reject my dad's beliefs about race.
That girl and I remained friends until she transferred schools after our third grade year. I didn't keep in touch with her and have no idea where she is now. If you're out there Adia, thank you for just being yourself. You are the very reason why I went down a better path than the one I was shown. I sincerely hope that you are well.
"I wouldn't say I was racist..."
I wouldn't say I was racist, but more uneducated. I grew up in a predominantly white town so when I was 10 and I moved to a city that was more diverse, it was weird for me. All I had to go off of was how other ethnicities were portrayed in pop culture. Well that and my racist aunt and some other closed minded family members. So it was weird for me at first but then I realized we weren't as different at all, all was alright. Plus it helped that my older brother talked to me about it before we moved.
We were driving in our dads black Ford truck and we saw another truck very similar to his, just a different color, that was broken down on the side of the highway. He asked what I thought was wrong with it. I said probably the engine or something like that broke (remember, i was 10). He asked if i thought it was because that truck was a different color that it wasn't working and ours was. I said no, that made no sense. He said "and thats why racism makes no sense." Oddly still remember that but I barely remember us moving. Weird.
"I grew up Mormon..."
I grew up Mormon in a very small town. This combination provided for a rather... Unbecoming upbringing.
However, once moving to a larger city, and then moving again to be near Denver, I realized that race didn't really matter and I only thought it did because I grew up in a small town of white people.
Unfortunately my family was too old and set in their ways, but my siblings and I avoided the permanent racism.
"I got in trouble..."
I got in trouble for calling a kid in primary school brown and then the head teacher was like 'I don't know why you would discriminate against him because you're brown too'. I looked down at my hands and thought 'I thought I was white this whole time'. That was also the day I found out I was adopted too! I don't know why a 7 year old just realized he was brown and had white parents. I thought about that day for 11 years since.
"So I was born in Alabama..."Giphy
So I was born in Alabama, still here, and come from a deeply "white Christian" family.
When I was younger I was told to stay away from blacks, Mexicans, Jews, and Muslims. Funny enough, not only did I grow up learning to call blacks the "N" word, but Mexicans, Jews, and Muslims were followed by the "N" word. (Yep, literally, Mexican "N" word is what my dad taught us to call them)
Well anyways, my deep hate for non-whites/non-Christians was deeply rooted thanks to my parents.
Until in 2011, a tornado outbreak swept through the south.
I did a lot of voluntary work, met some black people, but was still worried about being around them.
Until about a week or two later when our school reopened. We had a lot of new kids from various areas that were damaged. Most of them black.
So the next school year I get partnered up with this black girl in our history class, and I'm mostly focused on our project, but we ended up talking for a while.
She ended up being my first girlfriend a few weeks later, and after I met her family and learned what they went through because of the 2011 outbreak, plus her parents were from Birmingham during the civil rights movements, I started to learn that love is more powerful than hate.
That ability to make someone smile, there's nothing better than that. While me and her broke up later on, she had a massive impact on my life.
I still live in Alabama, and I still hear racist remarks from my parents, and from strangers. They will pass away, and sure they may have already left behind their mark of hatred. But hate can be erased with love.
"Not very long after..."
Moved away from home. Got into the punk/skin scene here and just wanted to fit in. It took me years to realize the guys I looked up to were listening to tons of music from people they claimed to hate and that they too just wanted to be a part of something. A short time after that I realized that for myself, it wasn't something I actually wanted to be a part of. I was hating something because I was either afraid of it or didn't understand it and that made me feel weak. Also, at the time, the last thing I wanted to be was weak.
Not very long after I kind of cut ties I realized as well that the guys I thought were tough were actually kindof pussies. They would talk a big game behind closed door or in a crowd of like minded people but if they were alone on the street it was completely different. They wouldn't stand up for their "beliefs" and I knew why. Because they knew those beliefs were wrong(and fucked up to be honest).
Still took me another period of time to realize we are all humans going through our own shit and life is too short to hate for zero reason.
Minimum wage is often paid by some of the most physically and emotionally intensive work—service industry jobs. Having to work in a hot kitchen all day or deal with irate customers while being paid less than you need to survive is not exactly the best situation to be in.