Racists are not born, they’re taught and cultivated over time and then they spread this disease like an infectious cancer. But there’s a cure…
“Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated.” -Alveda King
I had a very racially diverse upbringing but that also means I developed many racial prejudices.
The first time I was bullied was by a black person. The first time I got beat up was by a black person. And the first, second and third time I was robbed was by black people. All before the age of 14.
I wasn’t born with hatred against an entire race of people, because I wasn’t born a racist – nobody is, nobody. I thought that this was the entire world, from my speck of experience I had concluded the condemnation of all black people.
I was a racist and I didn’t even know it. I assumed all black people were like that.
Then one day after school on my walk home, a tall but skinny white guy crackhead asks me for money (I was 14). Before I can run away, he grabs my backpack strap and starts to go through my pockets – right in the middle of the street.
I’m not sure if he got anything from my pockets but I do remember a giant shadow casting over the both of us like a dense cloud moving over the sun.
From my adolescent recollection; the biggest black guy in the world. One mean looking motha’ fucka’ like a gangsta giant too menacing for the NFL.
I figuratively shit myself as the white guy probably literally shit himself.
The Giant, in the deepest voice ever heard says to me “you okay little man”. I don’t think I actually answered, but he then put his hand on the Crackhead’s shoulder and whispered something to him. He then ran like a bat out of hell.
As he chuckled at the sight of the running white guy, he got on a knee to get eye level with me and in a voice as welcoming as Morgan Freeman’s, he said “He won’t bother you any more, let’s go, I’ll walk you home”.
His name was Tyrel and he’s the reason I learned how not to be racist, not just against black people but all other races.
This great man walked me home almost everyday after that and we would talk. Mostly about being street smart and his own life experiences as a reformed thug.
I got to know the man. I talked to him…
That is the cure for racism.
Tyrel was shot dead across the street from my apartment building while defending a white couple from his own former gang.
He was my first [real] hero.
“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel
Because of Tyrel I learned my first life lesson. I stopped seeing color between humans. I realized the importance of knowing someone before judging them based on other people.
But this cure is not a one time “dose”. For every person or group of persons you hate for no good reason, get to know that person or someone from that group. Because once you see them as an individual, you can separate them from the grouped prejudices you automatically categorized them in.
Sure, a world without racism could be a beautiful place. But there’s more to it than that.
From a purely cognizant point of view, being racist or making decisions rooted from racism is the epitome of having a clouded judgment.
That means you’re being irrational and unintelligent while weakening your own position, so don’t.
Once you do get to know someone for who they are and you still hate them, you may at least have a legitimate reason for the hate.
And that gives you a more accurate and direct picture of that person instead of a false or clouded one.
[The featured photo was taken in Chicago.]