Getting out of tiny home towns is huge when it comes to growing and becoming a better person. When I was in HS, I was awful. Homophobic, moderately racist, completely regressive politically, etc. It only took about a month of living in a bigger, diverse city to start realizing I was horribly wrong about basically everything.
My dad was racist. I was raised in a toxic environment and I guess some of his ideologies rubbed off on me. He was also violent when alcohol was involved, which was a lot of the time. Police would often arrest him to just get him in a cell for the night for being disorderly.
On one occasion, the police turned up, one of them came into my room and sat with me as they dealt with my dad. He asked how I was, who I could talk to, etc. He was from a South Asian background. He was very kind to me and did his best in calming me down and giving me advice on dealing with this stuff. I was only about 15 at the time. As they were pulling my dad out, that same police officer was attacked by my dad after breaking free from another officer, breaking the officer’s finger in the process, whilst also hurling verbal, racial abuse at him. It wasn’t long after the London bombings so you can imagine what was said. My dad was also an electrician in Russell Square at the time, close to one of the blasts. The officer didn’t react, probably knowing I was watching the commotion from my room or the fact he was a decent human being.
My dad was convicted of multiple offences against a police officer as well as a hate crime. The only silver lining was as my dad was being sentenced, the prosecutor was a black man who casually read out the testimony of the arresting officer of what my dad said that night. The prosecutor could barely keep a straight face, watching my dad hold his head in shame, dressed in plastic overalls because he thought stuffing his clothes down the toilet of his jail cell and flooding the place would be funny. He got community service, probation and was required to attend rehab. He relapsed a a few years ago and can barely walk or talk because of multiple strokes from continued alcohol dependency.
The people responsible for protecting me from my dad were people of colour. That sure as hell changes your perspective on things even if you have the slightest ignorance towards another race.
I was a nice white racist. I think a big part of it was that I grew up in a very white town. So the only information I got about other cultures was from TV and other media. I never said a racial slur and never thought of myself as racist. I was perfectly nice to anybody I met. But I would definitely hold my purse a little closer if a Black or Latino man was passing me. I believed cliches about other races. I generally thought of the POC folks I met as the exceptions to the cliches about their people.
Then I started seriously dating an Asian man. I’d never dated a non-white person before. I was shocked by how frequently we had people give us double takes when holding hands in public. We were on a road trip and stopped by Walmart for some snacks, it was the first time I’ve really felt unsafe, people were glaring at us simply because we were a mixed race couple. We split up in that Walmart for safety. I asked him if that’s how he always felt in small towns and he laughed and said that how he always felt in the town I had grown up in too (it was a medium sized college town).
That was my big wake up call. I started analyzing my thinking. I started catching myself thinking in stereotypes. I started noticing hen I was being racist and started trying harder to be less racist.
I’m not perfect. I’m still a little awkward around Black people. I still catch myself thinking racist thoughts but I think I’m better than I was a few years ago.
ETA I married the Asian boyfriend. If you marry, marry the person who helps you be the best version of yourself.
My first name is one of the top five female African American names in the US. I’m whiter than the little mermaid. Everyone always thought it was funny that I was a white girl with a black girls name, and I just rolled with it, it wasn’t a big deal.. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. I would throw around causally racist stuff all the time because I thought I could. I never understood what people meant when they were talking about when the term “institutional racism” until I got out of the army and started sending resumes in. I never got call backs, so I decided to start taking my resume in to places in person instead of doing the online application that’s so prevalent nowadays, and for every resume that I dropped off in person, I always got a call for an interview. If I applied online, to the same place with the same resume, but a different phone number, I never got called back. If I sent the same resume to the same place using my first initial and last name, I got a call back.
This shits real and it’s so damaging and demoralizing.
Left the church and my conservative family.
Started examining myself closely.
The really tricky thing about being a racist is that you never think you’re a racist at the time. In the moment you feel like you’re just “quoting statistics” or “calling it how it is”, etc.
It takes a lot of work to actually stop, look at yourself, and then dig that ugly racist worm out of your heart.
My grandparents are 100% racist. When they found out I was having a child with a half white-half micronesian, they “disowned” me. When they met my kids, they thought they were fantastic great grand children. They admire their tan skin and say they are more “real” than my sibling’s kids.
My dad was/is pretty racist and I was just raised in that environment so I was too. An example I remember is being so excited to show him the first CD I ever bought, Gorillaz first album, and his reaction was, “so you like n-word(censored) music?”
The main catalyst however was him excitedly calling me into his room one night and wanting to show me a scene in a movie he was watching. That scene was the curb stomp from American History X. I was probably 8-10. Seeing his absolute glee at the fucking barbaric murder of the black people in the movie and praise on Edward Norton’s Nazi character really shook me, and the idea that he thought I’d share in his delight.
I walked out of the room in kind of a daze and that’s the moment I realized that wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be at allllll.
As a child I remember not liking other children who weren’t white. It wasn’t taught by my parents, they were always accepting of everyone. Still not sure what was the root of it. If I had to guess it was either television or just ignorance. But before 7th grade I met a kid at my summer camp and we instantly became best friends. I think pretty much over night changed my mind on the matter. He taught me so much about black culture, and it really changed my point of view. We’re still best buds 17 years later.
As a young kid, being raised by my old school grandparents who still called black people Ne**os and looked down upon native people, I thought that was normal as a kid. One day for a school field trip though, we went to a native reserve, went to a giant log house and watched a traditional native ceremony of some sort. It was actually really interesting to see in person and made me realize that they werent all drunks and gang members as my grandparents had portrayed them to be. This experience made me think different about all races, and I one day confronted my grandparents on it. They stopped using the N word after that so I hope I made some impression on them.
Nowadays, racism makes me cringe, I hate it. As a white guy, I’ve only ever experienced against me a handful of times, but those few times made me appreciate the much worse things many others go through simply because they are born a certain color.
I never thought I was racist until I started going to the bars. If a white dude was hitting on me, I’d usually accept a drink and politely turn him down (or not) later than night. If a black man did the same, I got really uncomfortable and would just ignore them completely.
As a young white girl, I was taught that black men were dangerous sexual predators. This is something I carried into my adult life. One night, among many nights where I went out with my friends, it randomly occurred to me that I reacted black men immensely different than white men… for doing the same exact thing. I didn’t know why, but I decided that night that I wasn’t going to do that anymore. It led me to realize many other odd racist things I did in my day to day life, without even realizing I was doing them.
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Lead image: Wikimedia Commons