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View Diary: Meet the Extraordinary Men Who Kept Me From Becoming a Racist (65 comments)

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  •  I often think (56+ / 0-)

    about why I chose a different path from those around me.  I was reared by racists.  I guess I cannot blame them for their ignorance.

    But I often think of the things that made me think differently.

    I loved Muhammed Ali.  As much as my Mom hated him I adored him.  The more I learned about him the more I rooted for him.  Ali stood up against something he saw as wrong even though it brought him personal risk and trauma.  Ali spoke truth to power.

    You can only teach a child courage by example.  Ali was my first example.  After that I opened my mind to different people and became me.

    Occasionally life involves risk and courage.  Most of the time it just means appreciating others and recognizing the common thread that binds us each to the other.

    Be well.

    The business of Nations is never morality. Moral stories live only through people.

    by tecampbell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:03:56 AM PST

    •  My parents were racist, and so am I (21+ / 0-)

      They didn't think they were. For a while I didn't think I was. We lived across the cul-de-sac from an older "colored" family. We called them friends and they were, in the usual manner of sharing conversation, exchanging of food dishes and borrowing of tools, that neighbors do.

      But in private, the "n" word was used frequently. We kids knew that we were more than different -- we were better because our skin was light. We didn't think that was racism. This was early 70's so I'm sure it wasn't an uncommon situation for white kids of the time.

      Being taught to think "other" when seeing darker skin isn't something that goes away when you've been trained throughout childhood. I can meet any other obviously non-white person without it crossing my mind, but "This person is black" was, for a long time, a primary thought. Over the 30 years since leaving home it has waned, but I still catch my thoughts now and then.

      It's great that you had Ali. Kids today have many more role models, starting at the top (BO) so that's encouraging. Less negative models is key, though. If you were taught to be that way like me, just don't pass it on to the next generation.

      •  Your share took some guts. (17+ / 0-)

        But I'm not sure it was a universal norm in the early 70's to use the "n" word. If I had used that word I would have had a very, very serious sit-down with my father or grandfather, which in my family, means I would have been in big trouble. I wouldn't have been hit, because we didn't do that, but I would have a stern talking to.

        I don't think I ever heard a real live person use the "n" word until I moved to Texas in my early teens. I'm not saying it's not used in New England, but I certainly never heard it used by my parents, teacher, or their friends or mine.

        What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

        by commonmass on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:17:20 AM PST

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        •  Trying to say (9+ / 0-)

          it wasn't uncommon for white kids to be raised by otherwise good people who were, whether knowingly or not, racist. We understand racism better now. It isn't about specific words, it's about beliefs. My parents weren't bad people.  They simply learned it from their parents, who learned it from theirs, and so on. They considered themselves the opposite of racist because they had black friends, right?

          •  Intersestingly even in the 194os, My dad hated (1+ / 0-)
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            what he saw in his own southern neighborhoods and always detested racism..he found it all cruel and hateful even when all the adults around him were racist. I think becxause some kids were cruel to him because he was poor and did not have a dad.  

            Where I disagree iwth you, is I do not find any racist person to be a good person, as that racism reveals such hate, ignorance and nothing that I find to be good.  
            It is horrible in my eyes and I refuse to have any relationship with a racist and i have cut off friends who turned out to be bigots. But then again, this started as I got older and realized life is too short and I cannot be around that level of hate anymore if at all possible.

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            by wishingwell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 08:48:43 PM PST

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            •  of a certain age, 80% of white people (1+ / 0-)
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              have some racism.
              But 80% of White people of that era aren't "bad people".

              it's age dependant I find, very largely, as well as location dependant.

              With people say born before 1940 in the south I imagine finding one that has no racism would not be as easy as trying to be friends with people born in the 80s.

              •  good point, although we challenged our (1+ / 0-)
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                grandparents on their racism and called them out about it , we were more patient and did find more good in them than say a cousin who is now 50 and racist.  That we will not put up and seek to distance ourselves.

                Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

                by wishingwell on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:15:35 AM PST

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          •  But my dad stopped the cycle way back in the 40s (2+ / 0-)
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            raincrow, elginblt

            and 5os, he said he never bought the excuse of what we learned from our parents. Once we are adults, we can decide for ourselves to keep hating or open up our hearts and minds. He never would let himself or us use the example of doing something wrong just because our parents did. That did not fly with him and I am so very very happy he was that way.

            Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

            by wishingwell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 08:50:12 PM PST

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        •  It was not the norm in the 70s at all, I never (2+ / 0-)
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          raincrow, Steve Canella

          even heard that word until I was in college and I was raised by a white father from the south. But it was taboo in our home and our neighborhood and schools in PA..absolutely and the 60s too.

          Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

          by wishingwell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 08:45:32 PM PST

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          •  that's your location my bet is, only (0+ / 0-)

            and or socioeconomic background

            I grew up same time period working class neighborhood in the Northeast. I heard it once from a drunk neighbor as a kid and a lot in college (mid 80s) from relatives of a friend who lived in the South.

            In certain circles in at least one area of Texas ten yrs ago at a bbq with all White people I heard the N word bandied about. And not everyone knew everyone and no one knew me. It SEEMED acceptable in that group. Just a snapshot though.

            •  We went to the south on vacations and spent a (0+ / 0-)

              lot of time there with cousins still there and we never heard the word, then. and it was a working class southern neighborhood. It could be we just got lucky in that regard.

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              by wishingwell on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:17:22 AM PST

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              •  or I not lucky. Though I've a friend from rural TX (0+ / 0-)

                who grew up with the N word all around (and she's only in her 30s). Her younger sister, only 27, says that she heard it as a kid an teen all the time and it turned her stomach.
                Surely it must be the circles one travels in. What we can say that it is more possible perhaps to encounter that word there. It was not an acceptable word where I am from...have talked to many people (I was in a discussion group about race and ethnicity at one point) no one 40s or younger remembered hearing it even as a kid except on very isolated instance.

                •  We grew up in Austin. I first heard it when I (0+ / 0-)

                  learned eenie-meenie-minie-mo, the n-word version from a brother who had learned it from a friend. I had no idea what it meant but when my dad heard us chanting it he told us what it meant and why we shouldn't say it. There was also the phrase 'n-word-rigged' which I heard used fairly often.
                  That would have been mid to late 60's.

        •  n word usage stops before racism goes away (0+ / 0-)

          70s in Mass--I heard no N word except maybe once by a drunk neighbor.

          Not acceptable to use it ever
          but plenty of racism under the surface

          n word is just most blatant and stark. I heard n word in 80s commonly with white friend's parents and grandparents from the south

      •  YIP, YIP!! (2+ / 0-)
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        ladybug53, raincrow

        I preach the church without Christ, where the lame don't walk, the blind don't see and what's dead stays that way! Hazel Motes in "Wise Blood" (Flannery O'Connor)

        by chalatenango on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:39:48 AM PST

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      •  My dad was raised in the south in the 40s and 30s (2+ / 0-)
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        raincrow, Steve Canella

        where segregation and racism were the norm but yet he never was a racist and he always shunned that, he thinks because the people most important to him in his life that he looked up to where coaches and the preachers and those who were against segregation, the more well educated and informed around him.

        Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

        by wishingwell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 08:44:23 PM PST

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      •  it's instructive for you to have shared that (1+ / 0-)
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        because it explains the mentality of many white people especially or moreso over a certain age, and at least some of the resistance and deep hatred of Barack Obama.

        So many were instilled with that same kneejerk "other" reaction that you have. And I know in my bones that must be where the birther 'he's not one of us" stuff comes from. From subconcious as well as concious racism.

        So many on the right I've seen get angry...livid...whenver those on the left point out racism. I think some or even much of it is legitimate (ie not trumped up) anger because they CANNOT SEE THEIR OWN RACISM, unlike yourself. And I will admit me too. These people have subconcious racim but just do not realize it or see it so they think we are lying when we point it out.

        I wasn't raised to think Black people were inferior or better. Though certainly that attitude existed in the society I was born into in the mid-late 60s. I WAS raised though with the "other, not one of us" feelings.

        To this day, if a Black person (a random stranger) does something annoying, inconsiderate or stupid (such as jay walk in front of my car in a dangerous way--the first thing that sometmes flashes into my head is that they are Black.It does not happen with Asian or White people.

        I don't think this conciously. I don't believe it conciously. And I am very comfortable in the local Black community --more than some people I grew up with-nearby and when I know people even a little I dont' feel any racial judgements at all that I am aware of. I've had close friends (Black) that I"ve talked to about this. I feel sad because it just confirms to them how this country is.

        I talk myself down from it. That kind of racism is part of me and I have to conciously manage it. My bet though is that legions of White people over 40 don't kjnow they are racist so don't manage it.

        I wasn't around Black people until high school, wasn't in college and then was when I got out of school. I didn't grow up fighting racism in myself because I didn't know I had any--I didn't encounter Black people I didn't know only my Black friends and I don't feel it with people I kno. Maybe that' s why I never rooted it out while I was young so still have it. It's kind of wierd because I dont' have that knee jerk racist internal split second reaction unless someone does something that directly negatively impacts me (say pushes past me in a rude way). I dont react to public figures that way.

        It's very odd and it HAS to be common. It's interesting my parents told us that all peopl are equal and I know I thought that as a kid but I did absorb the 'other" thing (not one of us) some. I dont' feel the other thing as an adult at all...I feel (maybe due to my inner city location and socioeconomic level) more comfortable sometimes with immigrants and Black people than i do with many White people. But I must have also absorbed a negative view of Black people deep into my subconcious likely from society. I can't believe that MANY white people my age are not the same. I HATE IT when they deny it and deny that so much resistance to Obama is from his race. Those folks in Congress are OLD...average age is probably at least a decade older than I am.

        That Mitch McConnell of Kentucky--a generation older than I am--is not racist seems like a too big stretch of the imagination

    •  My dad was raised in the segregated south in the (3+ / 0-)
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      tecampbell, raincrow, Steve Canella

      193os and 40s but he was never a racist.  He refused to go along with it, even then, despite pressure from white adults around him, including his own mother, He was that kind of person, always independent thinking and he never understood or approved of racism or segregation. It never made sense to him. He said he was dirt poor and so were his black neighbors. He did not have a dad and neither did his black friends.  But yet even in the slums, they were often segregated and could not play in the same parks or go the same schools. He found that outrageous even as a child.

      So it is not always environment as Dad always seemed to reject it even as a kid surrounded by racists.  He was always determined though to have a better life and be a dad that he never had and raise open minded, kind, compassionate children and give them a college education.  And he did all of that and more.

      Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

      by wishingwell on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 08:42:24 PM PST

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