Monday, October 10, 2005

Do I Look Like A Racist In The Picture Below?

Guess it depends on who is looking at the picture.

The fact is that I was a racist in the full blown, deep south, 1950's, thought I was being nice if I called a black person "colored", sense of the word racist. I lived in the suburbs of a city that was about 50% white and 50% black. In fact, I think the whole state of Louisiana may have been 50% African American (still no final word from my darkest skinned friends on whether black or African American is better).

I thought I knew a lot about black people. I knew it because grown up people and the little kids I played with told me stuff all the time. They told me black people were lazy and not very bright at all. My dad said that a black person's skull (o.k. he didn't call them black persons, but I refuse to fill my blog with what he did call them) could turn a 22 caliber bullet. When they ate pork chops, they ate the bone and everything with their powerful jaws. However it was widely known that their Achilles heel was located in their shin. For some reason, it was widely believed that black people could be felled by a quick kick to the shins, where as a bullet to the skull would simply cause them to be a bit more dazed than usual. I thought I knew a whole bunch of other stuff about black people. The stuff I wrote is just a small sample. You may be thinking, "Wow, what a dumb little kid you were to believe that stuff." I was ignorant, but I was not dumb. I was reading at the fourth grade level before then end of my first year of school. In 1964, in the ninth grade, I was first out of a few hundred kids competing in a state level science competition. I still remember a lot of the science I regurgitated in that test, and it was mostly pretty accurate even by todays standard. Nonetheless, I was still believing all that stuff I had been told about black people.

"How could that be?" you might ask. I often wonder that also. This is a sin curse world. I am a sinner (saved by grace, and that not of myself). But lots of sinful people don't believe all the dumb crap that people told me about black people.

I guess the main answer is that the only people I ever actually talked to were racist white people.

I can remember vividly the first time I actually spoke to and even played with a black kid my age. I was staying at a babysitters house in a poorer part of town. Even I could tell it was real poor because her bathtub had claw feet and a big weird brown stain were the water drained out.

I have know idea what that kid was doing near her house. He looked at me shyly. Maybe I was the only white kid he had ever actually talked to. But since we were only about 6 years old, we decided to stop being shy and just play together. He did talk funny. And he probably smelled as bad as I did in my jeans with no shirt or shoes. He may have been in ragged clothes, but that is not the sort of thing that 6 year old boys pay much attention too.

We played really fun games like "run around and hide in the hedge" or "point at stuff and laugh". I remember thinking that we were having a pretty good time. But I was a little afraid that somebody was going to yell at me any minute. After all, I was playing with a black kid! He seemed pretty much like a normal kid, only he wasn't. He was black. I felt a bit puzzled about it all, but I didn't dwell on such things then.

Well, I would like to say that we became close friends and that I helped him start the civil rights movement in Louisiana. However, what really happened was that we played a few times and then my mom changed babysitters. He would be really old now. 55 or more. Maybe he is a CEO. Maybe he is washing cars.

I would also like to say that that was the beginning of many fine relationships that I had with black kids. But as far as I can remember, I never played with or even spoke to another black kid until I was about 16. But that is a story for another time.

So from my earliest memories until I was in my late teens, I pretty much believed all that crap that people told me about black people. Now I am very sorry that I did. I went through a long period when I thought that everything that everyone had ever told me was probably crap (except science of course. Nobody could ever question science.). I thought morals were crap. Nice clothes were crap. Haircuts were crap. Well, if you have ever been a hippie or read what they wrote, you will have some idea of what I thought about a lot of things. That too is a story about another time.

So if you ever wonder why someone believes something that is really wrong, maybe it is just that no one has told them the truth and they never got to see the truth lived out in real life.
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