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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:49 AM

I was raised by racists, and then one day it just went away

I was raised by my grandparents, both of whom where born in the late 1800's. They came from western South Carolina. They were both racists who had been raised by men and women who had endured the worst of Sherman's march. That is who they were, I am what they raised.

In 1966 I was a young fellow and I 'moved' from the suburbs of Washington DC to Miami, Florida traveling by hitch-hiking. As luck would have it I got a ride in northern Virginia with a fellow who was headed far south, but unfortunately also to the west. The next morning he dropped me off somewhere in eastern Alabama, a hundred or so miles inland from my route south (US-1, US-17, US-301, and such small arts of I-95 as existed at that time). After walking through a small town I got a ride with an entire family, traveling in a 1958 Ford. The family was black, I was in the back seat along with two young women and a couple of kids. One of the women was breast feeding her child. An old man was driving and his wife and another middle-aged woman were in the front seat. They were all interested in what this young white boy was doing with all his worldly possessions in a paper bag and his thumb stuck out in a place he should not be. And I told them that I was headed to Miami and that I had a sister down there and pretty likely a job waiting too. They were horrified. I would never make it to Florida or even back into Georgia as far as they could see. I was told quite bluntly that I was awfully lucky to have even made it through that town without being arrested. The old man told me that it wouldn't make any difference that I was white and not black. I was from the north and that would be enough, I would be on a road-gang with not a thing in the world to help me within the day.

And while he was telling me that the old man turned to the left and that family went 75 miles out of their way to get me safely out of Alabama and back into eastern Georgia. And that changed everything. It knocked the racism right out of me and at the same time it caused me to be a more generous, or maybe a better way to say that is a less self-centered, person than I had been raised to be. My god, those were wonderful people. Anyway it was one hellacious learning experience.

I don't know that it means much, but that is what happened. By the way, I had $5 with me on that trip and I put $3 of it into their gas tank when they dropped me off. I know that doesn't sound like much but it made them whole and left plenty of money for me to eat as I got on my way.

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Reply I was raised by racists, and then one day it just went away (Original post)
1-Old-Man Feb 2013 OP
southernyankeebelle Feb 2013 #1
bigtree Feb 2013 #2
Baitball Blogger Feb 2013 #3
dkf Feb 2013 #4
brewens Feb 2013 #5
Nay Feb 2013 #24
socialindependocrat Feb 2013 #6
DrewFlorida Feb 2013 #7
sad-cafe Feb 2013 #8
Wounded Bear Feb 2013 #9
1-Old-Man Feb 2013 #11
Orrex Feb 2013 #10
JDPriestly Feb 2013 #12
Mockingjay Feb 2013 #13
kelliekat44 Feb 2013 #55
ReRe Feb 2013 #14
ismnotwasm Feb 2013 #15
heaven05 Feb 2013 #19
ismnotwasm Feb 2013 #22
OneGrassRoot Feb 2013 #16
renate Feb 2013 #48
OneGrassRoot Feb 2013 #50
xtraxritical Feb 2013 #17
tblue Feb 2013 #18
heaven05 Feb 2013 #20
graywarrior Feb 2013 #21
BlueJazz Feb 2013 #23
WillyT Feb 2013 #25
Trajan Feb 2013 #26
Ashgrey77 Feb 2013 #27
grilled onions Feb 2013 #28
skeewee08 Feb 2013 #29
Curmudgeoness Feb 2013 #30
tavalon Feb 2013 #31
steve2470 Feb 2013 #32
lunatica Feb 2013 #33
lunasun Feb 2013 #36
Mnemosyne Feb 2013 #41
Lithos Feb 2013 #34
1-Old-Man Feb 2013 #52
calimary Feb 2013 #35
southern_belle Feb 2013 #37
yardwork Feb 2013 #38
truedelphi Feb 2013 #39
NBachers Feb 2013 #40
defacto7 Feb 2013 #42
BlueStreak Feb 2013 #43
Skittles Feb 2013 #47
Jackpine Radical Feb 2013 #57
abelenkpe Feb 2013 #44
Smilo Feb 2013 #45
DeSwiss Feb 2013 #46
aquart Feb 2013 #49
MrMickeysMom Feb 2013 #51
Amimnoch Feb 2013 #53
BlancheSplanchnik Feb 2013 #54
zanana1 Feb 2013 #56
malaise Feb 2013 #58
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #59

Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:54 AM

1. That is a nice story.

 

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:01 PM

2. cool story

. . . it was obviously an experience that you've carried with you all of these years. I find that people of all races, ethnicity, creed, nationality, and whatever, can be especially kind and affirming of the gift of our humanity. You look for that as you wade through the rest . . .

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:01 PM

3. What a great life story.

Thanks for sharing it.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:02 PM

4. When people look beyond race that is when it all works.

 

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:03 PM

5. Almost 10 years later a buddy of mine ended up being locked up in Alabama for

being from the north and having long hair. He was just seeing the country and they didn't like the look of him.

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Response to brewens (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 02:10 PM

24. 1969-71, a college friend of mine always biked home from school in FL to somewhere like Ohio (he

was a true Lance Armstrong type). Before he left for home, he always cut his long hair into a military cut, just to have a better chance of getting through AL, GA, MS, whatever route it was that he took. He told me that he still got rousted and stopped and questioned, but they usually let him go. If he had had long hair, he said, he would never have gotten home. His parents would never even have known where the body was buried.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:09 PM

6. Just talking lights my soul

I've found that lots of people are willing to sit and chat
while they're waiting for a bus or a plane (or on the plane)

Just sharing life stories can make such a wonderful connection
that I leave with a glow-on.

Especially now, where it seems our society has given us lessons
that make us believe that we will be taken advantage of at every turn.

Most middle class people and poor are just looking to live life
at the least expense and whith a few stories to tell about kind
strangers that they've met along the road.

I'm so glad you have a story to tell.

Thanks

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:25 PM

7. Thank you for sharing your story.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:28 PM

8. that is great

 

I have always said it is the experiences that shape who we are!

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:29 PM

9. In 1966, $3 would buy 10 gallons of gas.....

That's a pretty big deal, guy. Don't sell youself short.



Great story, BTW.

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:36 PM

11. And the remaining $2 bought me a couple of burgers and more than one Nehi Orange too

I think I had almost a dollar left when I got to where I was going. By the way, I had a job by the following monday and if my memory serves me at all well it paid $1.71 an hour, my first Union job. With the exception of my time in the Army I have been a Union member continuously since.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:32 PM

10. Great story!

What a terrific experience, and how fortunate for you that they were able to rescue you before you got into trouble.

Thanks for sharing!

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:01 PM

12. Wonderful story. Thanks.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:04 PM

13. I'm touch by your story

I read alot of posts, I seldom post because many of you say things I would say, but this story has substance and soul. I grew up in the south and we came from the north, so I know how people were treated then and now. Southern people, not all..... still have a terrible resentment towards yankee's and foreigners. They have been raised that way and can't let go of their beliefs no matter what the facts are. Only the very educated seem to make progress, those that can afford the education that is...and even then you have to be careful what you say and to whom... I live in South carolina now 2 years... moved from Florida and before NY.

Change comes slow in the bible belt south.

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Response to Mockingjay (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:40 AM

55. Life experiences make people who and what they are. Just as the south suffered and lost so much

during Sherman's march and just as blacks suffered through slavery is it any wonder people feel and behave the way they do. Now think about what surviving Iraqis and Pakistanis and Afghans must feel about America and the west in general. Racism is the evil we are mostly taught based on the experiences of others. One wrong act leads to another and here we are. It gives us all hope to learn of experiences that clobber our racist thoughts and actions and beat them down into the dust bin of history. This was a great story and a great lesson. I still wonder how my Native American elders could take the time to teach their children and grandchildren to love and forgive. Their feeling was that it was not natural to hate humanity or terrorize the earth. My children were and my grands still are objects of racists taunts and actions in school but they remain loving, carefree children.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:26 PM

14. Thanks for one of your life stories...

1-Old-Man. I love to listen to life stories. Did you ever listen to Studs Turkel interview people on the street? Or read his books? And did you ever live in a small town with a "liar's bench?" I think where I acquired a liking for life stories was from my Grandmother. My sister and I would go stay all night with her on Fri nights. Sis and I were quite hyperactive little imps, so it was hard to get us to lay still and be quiet so we could get to sleep. So she would ask us to give her a word, any word. Could be a noun or a verb or adjective...didn't matter. And she would proceed to make up a story on the spot building the story around or ending up with that word. She was a genius at it. Never told us the same story twice. I was little, so I didn't think of writing her stories down and keeping them, unfortunately. Most times it would be along the lines of a faerie tale, but sometimes it would be about something that happened when she was a little girl. We would stop her and ask questions about a word she used or to get more info on a character, etc. It was quite an interactive exercise. We didn't know it, but she was forcing us to lay still and LISTEN. The stories I liked the best were the ones about when she was a little girl. She was born in a different century (1880), so those stories were so different than our growing up years, and to me most interesting.

Yes, when one grows up and gets away from home, especially to another state, your eyes and mind has a way of opening up.
Thanks again for telling how you were changed when you left "home." You are a better man.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:36 PM

15. Cool story!

My husband has one involving a Native American gentleman who became one of his closest friends. It seems they were talking one day and my husband was using a common pejorative for black people. His soon to be friend explained to him exactly how he felt about what had happened to his people through the hands of whites.

My husband had an aha! Moment, and from that day toward they talked each other out of hatred for anybody. That was well over 30 years ago, and they're still friends, and while race isn't the topic of their discussions much anymore, my husband always uses that story of how ingrained born and raised racism can and does change.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #15)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:48 PM

19. yep

I hate that word. It imparts such an evil mindedness. Born out of hate. A hate I still don't know the genesis of. Bravo to your husband being a bigger and better human.

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Response to heaven05 (Reply #19)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:56 PM

22. Thank you very much

Neither ones of us allows any kind of racism to go unremarked these days. And we're not shy. In a very real way, we feel it's a duty.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:37 PM

16. Thank you for this. I'm working up the courage...

to share my story of being raised by and growing up around racists. An incident that occurred when I was 11 transformed me.

to you.


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Response to OneGrassRoot (Reply #16)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:52 AM

48. I have a feeling that it'll be an amazing story

You really are the best. The BEST. Seriously.

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Response to renate (Reply #48)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 06:58 AM

50. Oh wow...

that's so sweet!

Thank you kindly, renate.



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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:44 PM

17. My grandparents bought a house in Washington D,C. N.W. in 1950

 

by the mid 1960's all the white people had "fled" to Maryland and my grandparents were the only whites left in the neighborhood. Well, to make a long story short, they were well taken care of by the whole neighborhood. When I visited with my parents I played with all the black children of the neighborhood and was in and out of their houses and there was never any talk or thought of "race". When it comes to "family values" there are no finer people.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:44 PM

18. What a gift!

They gave you the gift of an open heart. They were like angels sent to put you on a better path and you were good and brave enough to go there. How beautiful is that?

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:50 PM

20. great story

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:54 PM

21. Wow, I'm glad I took the time to read this...it's quite awesome.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 01:58 PM

23. Ahem....I have something in my eye....

Wonderful Story.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 04:03 PM

25. K & R !!!


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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 04:45 PM

26. That is one of the best stories I have read here in years

I was raised by a violent, alcoholic, racist idiot father from Tennessee, who spewed the ' N ' word like an auctioneer calls out prices ... A vicious bastard was he ...

My mother, on the other hand, was Brooklyn born and raised, and refuted his maniac rantings as soon as he left the room ...

I adhered to my mother's way of thinking and rejected my father's "teaching" ...

Thanks for this wonderful story ...

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 04:49 PM

27. Great story. n/t

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 05:05 PM

28. You Have To Be Carefully Taught

Wasn't that a quote in South Pacific? Why can't we stop this hate? It is always a question that baffles those of us who are not. Is it fear? Greed? Or simply one of those "I am better then THEY are?" attitudes. If we can stop this one person at a time,one opinion at a time we may still save humanity and then we can work on the dark side(the greedy ones--the TP's ,The R's etc).

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 05:38 PM

29. Great story thanks for sharing....

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:02 PM

30. This is a lesson for all of us.

One individual can change a person's attitudes, just by treating them generously and compassionately. A white boy sees that a black family cares about his safety. A black man sees that a white family cares about him. A right wing conservative sees that a liberal cares about their plight.

Our actions matter.

Thank you for that memory shared.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:12 PM

31. Interesating, you have a moment that changed you

I just think my childhood in three parts: With my single mother until she died when I was eight, living with my sociopathic father and his personality disordered wife for almost 5 years and then going to live with my Dixiecrat grandparent's until I went to college made it hard to brainwash me. I guess I never took that stuff at face value and I'm glad, because I guess, otherwise, I would be a Republican (that's what the Dixiecrats became with Reagan) and I suppose a racist. I am glad that when I was dating a wonderful man who also happened to be black, that it was after my grandparents had died. There was no feeling of doing that "to show them." We just had great chemistry and we're still friends. I'm invited to his wedding this spring.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:15 PM

32. I was partially raised by a black woman, who was our maid

She was a wonderful woman, very nurturing and caring and loved me about as much as my own mother did.

We went to her funeral service at her church, my first ever black church service.

eta: Wonderful post, thank you for sharing this.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:17 PM

33. When something like your story happens it always works to reverse racism

It reminds me of the movie American History X where the Skin head played by Edward Norton goes to prison for murder and is forced to work with a Black convict. They become fast friends and that experience changes him completely. Then he has to deal with his racist family and friends and girlfriend when he gets out. They all throw him out and he dedicates his life fighting racism.

It's a great story.



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Response to lunatica (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:37 PM

36. i never saw that because I thought it glorified skinheads - will have to check it out Thanks

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Response to lunatica (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 10:32 PM

41. Norton is amazing in this role. Great film. nt

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:46 PM

34. Great story

Though not sure how you can get into Eastern Georgia by driving 75 miles from Alabama. Also Eastern Georgia, from my experience, is not that much better than Alabama.

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Response to Lithos (Reply #34)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 08:07 AM

52. Good points ....

I am guessing about the 75 miles, it was a couple of hours in the car after he turned to the east. If I could remember the name of the town I could tell you just how far it actually was but the name eludes me to this day - but there was a guy named Dawson who was running for some office, he had paper posters on just about every utility pole I passed.

And why eastern Georgia, which very well may not have been any safer for a traveling boy-child, well, that's where the roads I needed were. Once again from memory, but as I recall I had to go down 301 just about to the Florida border, or at least to Brunswick, and then I think I got onto 17 for the short hop down to Jacksonville and probably US-1 the rest of the way. As I said, there were short sections of I-95 that had opened by that time but broken routes do not make for good traveling for a hitch-hiker.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:15 PM

35. What a wonderful story!!! Stuff like this we need to hear and read about, every day!

It's quite reassuring, actually. Nice to hear about this anecdotal evidence of people-to-people healing and enlightenment. Stunning to think how attitudes have been, in some places, during our lifetimes. And of course we really still haven't surmounted all of this OR left it behind us, unfortunately.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:49 PM

37. Great story...

Thanks for sharing. I was raised by a rascist father too.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:54 PM

38. Gave you a heart. Thanks for sharing that story.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 08:23 PM

39. Thank you for sharing that story.

Very nicely told, and a wonderful tale.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 10:30 PM

40. You got out of that car a different man than when you got in, didn't you?

Life on the road has a lot of transformative experiences.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Another old man from 1949.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:14 PM

42. This is an incredibly beautiful

and educational thread. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and also those who are sharing their own stories in the comments. It's quite amazing.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 12:34 AM

43. I've always found most black people to be generous and caring to whites

God knows they had every right to be the racists after the way white America treated them. But in my experience, that just has not been the case. Sure, there are a few spiteful people in every race, but the vast majority of racists in this country are white. And white folks were never made slaves, lynched, and systematically denied the most basic human rights. If anybody had a right to be a racist, it was the slaves, but in fact, it was just the opposite.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #43)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 03:09 AM

47. I still remember the small kindness of a black woman when I was 17

I knew instinctively she cared more about me than did my mother

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Response to Skittles (Reply #47)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:56 AM

57. I hear the subtext of a tragedy behind your words.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 01:04 AM

44. Sweet story! K&R nt

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 01:48 AM

45. And sometimes you meet an angel

1-Old-Man thank you for telling us about your meeting with the angels and the decision you made.

I hope you have had a wonderful life and continue to do so.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 02:27 AM

46. K&R

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 06:20 AM

49. You thought it was the road south, but it was to Damascus.

The events of our lives shape us. I wasn't raised by bigots, quite the opposite, but postwar housing landed my family in a virtually segregated community in Queens. The tracts of garden apartments had, judging by my grade school, one black family, one Chinese family, and one Japanese family. I didn't think anything of it.

I simply assumed that was how the world looked. Same for junior high.

When I got to Francis Lewis High School I went into culture shock. The school was much more diverse. A black student was Student Council president and I thought that was weird. Then I realized that no one else seemed to. Maybe some did and they were as ashamed as I was of feeling that way.

Because I felt defective, secretly humiliated, angry and horribly awkward. My sister, two years behind me, went to fully integrated schools and her friends were all colors from the beginning. Segregation is so monstrous to the targets of that discrimination that nobody thinks it worth mentioning how crippling it is to the privileged class on the other side. But it was, like an ugly deformity I had to work to hide.

I never got over the revelation of the casual bigot I had become.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 08:01 AM

51. A heart to you, for that story alone...

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 08:31 AM

53. My story is almost the exact opposite, I was in my 20's before I realized I was racist.

Born in 1971, I was the child of parents who were part of the flower power movement of the 60's. I was raised to believe that all people deserve dignity, respect, and to be greeted with no pre-conceived notions based on the way they look, but purely by the way they conduct themselves.

At 17 or even 25, if I'd been told I was a racist, I would have vehemently refuted the claim, and taken the accusation as a grievous insult to my character and person.

Then, I'd met the love of my life, the man who would be my husband. Early on in our relationship, he'd accused me of being a racist, and it became the biggest argument we've had in our 17 years together. To me, it seemed impossible that I could be racist. Growing up, my friends composed of a very diverse group. My personal relationships by that point had covered just about the full spectrum of cultures and races out there. Heck, whenever I'd engaged any person who was a minority I made it a definite point not to have any pre-conceived notions, and to give extra consideration to their own culture, and background... and it turns out, that's where he had me.

I still remember exactly where the argument started. It was 1997, and we were at home, laying next to each other, and watching an episode of Designing Women. It was the episode where John Carter's son wanted to go to a school dance with Mary Jo's daughter. Mary Jo was fine with it, but the father was not. Towards the end of the episode John Carter gave a speech, where he stated "everyone's a racist, the question is, what are you going to do about it?". I thought that was a very silly statement. Everyone isn't racist.

After much heated debate with my husband, he finally proved that I was. The very fact that I make it a point not to have pre-conceived notions, means that I do. The very fact that I will modify my behavior and treatment of people, even if it's to give greater acceptance, or to give a greater level of understanding, doesn't exclude me from the title "racist", it reinforces it. Sure, it's different than what is generally considered to be racist, but it doesn't make me excluded.

To this day I still think that's one of the most profound quotes of all time. "everyone is a racist, the question is, what are you going to do about it?"

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:24 AM

54. oh wow, I almost bypassed this thread because I ASSumed it was going to be a rant

And I just wasn't in the mood for another over-intellectualised exposition. (She said, missing the irony)

Anyway, I figured I don't need convincing that racism sucks! And sometimes I just don't bother with the super popular posts. Same reasoning for why I havent seen "E.T."


I am REALLY glad I finally went against my assumptions.
It is good to go against our assumptions.


Beautiful beautiful story.



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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:44 AM

56. Thank God for that family...

And thank God for you.

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 01:16 PM

58. What a beatutiful post

Rec

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Response to 1-Old-Man (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:23 PM

59. By coincidence, I was watching "Slavery By Another Name" while reading this post ...

I learned a lot about AL history that they didn't teach us in school. Sure, we knew that a lot of nasty stuff went on, but the scope and scale and sheer *routineness* of it never shows up in high school history textbooks. We did get a little watered-down version of history which I think sort of innoculated us against questioning the narrative -- as if confessions to lesser crimes muffled suspicion of greater ones.

http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name
http://video.pbs.org/program/slavery-another-name/

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