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20 Former Racists Share What Changed Their Minds

I personally believe that it’s very important that we, as a society, find a way to leave room for people to grow and change. We’re living in an age of changing morals and mores; things that were acceptable 10, 15 years ago simply are not anymore and as people learn the new social order, they’re bound to make mistakes. As people realize their behavior is, or was, racist or sexist or what-have-you, it’s important to invite everyone to make a positive change and not completely alienate anyone for mistakes.

So with that said, I do wholeheartedly think people can change, and this thread from Reddit definitely supports that thesis. I’ll hop off my soapbox now and let you guys peruse the best answers from u/Cursed_Salad97‘s question: “Former racist people of reddit what changed your opinion?”

1. Travel

I was raised in a really small, rural town, so it was casual racism constantly. I fell into the rhetoric, unfortunately.

What changed me?

Just living and traveling and listening and trying to understand.

This applies for other views as well.

Traveling and just listening can really open your eyes to a lot of things and on so many levels.


2. Experienced it

Not sure this counts, but I went from living in a hyper religious and extremely intolerant and completely white environment, to living in a country where I was the foreigner and received quite a bit of abuse for it. Swore I would never be that kind of person.


3. Learned what parents said wasn’t true

I grew up as one of the only white people in a predominantly black area, my parents drilled into me that they hate me just because I’m white and to fear them. And at the time they weren’t necessarily wrong, because many of those kids were being told the same thing about me at home. I just learned from experience it isn’t true, I made many friends that I still love dearly and I wish neither of us had this mindset drilled into us.


4. Education

In Grade 5, I learned about the Holocaust and saw a film showing how a typical Jewish family experienced it from beginning to end.

Let’s just say the ending left me mortified … And through listening to how adults and even celebrities portray themselves in public, I started accepting the fact that all races have good and bad apples but the bad apples need to own up to their bigotry and learn to live with one another. Enough excuses.


5. Exchanged ideas

Am a hindu and in india hindus and Muslims have little bit of beef in between

There was a new student in class (muslim) my beanch mate was absent that day teacher made him sit on my beanch with me and said no one will change their places time passes small talk common interests good friends.


6. The workplace

I grew up in a family that was extremely racist towards African Americans. Especially they would always rant about how AA customers at their jobs are always rude and too lazy to clean up after themselves.

After I got a job myself, I realized that it seems like every races are the same. Some are rude. Some are lazy. MOST people are nice regardless of the color of their skin.

I just find it unfair how my parents specifically targeted AA people I’ve experience just about the same about of “rudeness and laziness” from the other races.


7. Moved to a liberal city

My parents weren’t racist. But the entire depressed logging town I grew up in was.

Basically there was a very heavy divide between the Latino and white community, and both really disliked the African Americans.

In fact the only thing all races could really get together about was their hatred of owls. Every yard no matter your part of the neighborhood there was a sign up front basically saying fuck owls.

But my best friends Mom was very good in my life. I was a latch key kid so instead of going home to my drug addled older abusive brother I would prefer to spend my days sitting down with my best buddy watching TV and his mom would make us hamburgers and milkshakes. Basically my second Mom.

But she was very racist. A certain kind of nut was called something entirely different. Lots of racial based colloquials. She had little black sambo in her collection. She once had a property checked out by a person of color and asked me and my friend to keep an eye on him because he couldn’t be trusted.

So I didn’t really realize this at the time tbh. I can tell you a thousand racist things that just flew away over my fucking head somehow.

When my parents got divorced near the start of highschool and I moved into a liberal city with my Mom I discovered how shitty the town was, and the divide, and everything. My Dad’s second family had 2 African American step brothers for me and they really made me realize it. It took me a while and a lot of correction but I eventually shed a lot of her and that towns influence. Same with my besty. Neither of us go back anymore.. it’s kind of sad to see people who stayed.


8. College

My education growing up was fairly conservative and my neighborhood lacked diversity. When I went to college, I met a ton of people who were different from me but just as human.


9. Favorite food

As soon as I was old enough to realize all my favorite foods were not American. Eye opening.


10. Punched in the face

 In the 1970s my dad was in elementary school said he had always thought African Americans were just different. So one day he’s standing in line, and there was two African American brothers standing behind my dad when my dad turns to the younger brother and calls him a racist term (I don’t remember which one). The older brother turns to my dad winds up and punches him straight in the face. He said he was bleeding, it hurt like hell, and he was crying but ever since that day he knew they were just like everyone else because that’s exactly what he would have done.


11. More college!

I grew up in a town where other races were practically a theoretical concept. I then went to college and realized we are all just people and suck equally.


12. Puerto Rican Man Saved His Life

My uncle by marriage grew up with racist parents, but one day when he was 20 (iirc) he fell asleep at the wheel after working a double shift and rolled off the side of the road into a ditch late one night.

It was a country road in nowhere Upstate New York and the only other person on the road at the time was a Puerto Rican man also getting off work. Pulled him from the car and drove to the nearest gas station to use the pay phone (way before cell phones existed).

My uncle survived thanks to that man. His car caught fire shortly after. My uncle was so touched by this man’s kindness he vowed to help the man as much as could.

Until my uncle’s death from cancer in 2013 they remained friends. I remember hearing the story during Thanksgiving one year when I was younger and not really understanding what racism was.


13. Just let it go

Not strictly racist, but I held a fair amount of backwards views and was what I consider to be skeptical to a fault – which led to some negative preconceptions of people. It was all from misdirected fear and anger though. As I worked on being more mentally healthy and confronting those feelings for what they are, the views I thought I believed in so strongly just fell away. Its an exhausting way to live, being hateful. It’s extremely alienating, and that isolation just fuels your self loathing, which is the root of the fear and anger.

I can’t say there was some altruistic moment of realization, I just sorta let it go.


14. Grew up poor

Grew up dirt poor with a single parent as a white kid in an area with a large Black middle and upper middle class. Got bullied a LOT in school for being poor. Had a teacher tell me once that she couldn’t believe I didn’t have reliable internet access at home because I was white. I literally thought the racial wealth gap was reversed and that the cause of this was public spending until I was like 16. Getting a ton of scholarships and then being able to move for college opened my eyes real quick.


15. Pokemon, if you can believe it

I don’t think I was ever racist, but as a little kid I was scared of other races. Probably because they weren’t very common in my life. It didn’t come from a place of hatred though.

But then I watched the first Pokemon movie and Meowth said something I’ve always remembered…

“We do have a lot in common. The same earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we started looking at what’s the same instead of what’s different… well, who knows.”

And since that moment, I stopped being scared of other races.

It’s true as well, we should stop looking at what is different and start looking at what’s the same. However, I will say that the differences in people, culture, so forth, is something to be celebrated as well.


16. Grew up

I grew up. Moved away from the racist influences. Met people of other races and decided then that I would treat people as individuals to like or not as attitude dictated. Not by race/religion/sexuality etc. Makes life simpler. It takes way to much energy to hate.


17. Friends who cared

I am still a young person, but I was a racist piece of shit for a long time. I’m sure if you go back enough in my post history, you can still see the remnants of who I used to be. For me, what really changed it was growing up and having good friends that cared enough to see the person I could be, even though I was an unbelievably nasty racist POS. Through many conversations, interactions, and even arguments, I grew up as a person into who I am today. I’m still not the greatest person on Earth, but I’m still working to be the best I can be.


18. One friend

I’m Asian and lived in the poorer parts of town. I often got harassed and even beat up by black kids (often older kids) throughout late elementary and early middle school, so I had a pretty bad opinion of them growing up.

Then I met a black kid who saw me playing Pokemon on my Game Boy and he enthusiastically asked me a bunch of questions like who my starter was and if I got to the Elite Four. I was wary of him at first, but he eventually became my best friend throughout middle school and some of high school.

Later in high school he started to change. He hung around the bad crowd (they were all black IIRC) and he started to pretend like I didn’t exist. I knew one of those dudes from my class and overheard him calling anime “gay ass Chinese cartoons.” Otherwise I never had any encounters with them.

I didn’t talk to my friend again until senior year. He told me his old friends switched schools, got expelled or arrested. We just buried the hatchet and talked about anime and video games again like old times.


19. High school

High school. Went from my Brooklyn neighborhood where I threw around every ugly word with my buddies almost daily to my very first week in high school when I said some stupid comment and got the dirtiest looks from my brand new friends. It was the combination of disgust, disappointment, and even pity that made me realize that something was very wrong and that something was in me.

I had to make very conscious efforts to not think like that for years until it finally came naturally. The best thing is my three children don’t have to make any effort at all, it’s just normal for them to not think the way I did.


20. Realization

I was around 12 when I realized that they’re just as human as I am and don’t deserve to be treated unfairly because of a different skin color. Fought tooth and nail with my mom many times on that after that