Raising a colorblind generation

Racism is the hot button right now. Even in my quiet little town, we have been seeing people protesting things from hundreds of miles away. It’s a subject I haven’t really dealt with much in my writing. Maybe it’s time for my two cents worth.

I am a white man. Plain old white bread with minimal knowledge of my family roots and history. No idea what my family heritage involves, beyond my grandparents. I can’t say whether or not my family ever really struggled through anything like slavery or the holocaust. I just don’t know if there’s anything I would be justified in being upset about.

Anyone old enough to have experienced segregation and the residual effects of slavery would be very different. I would full expect them to be concerned about being treated like that again. I would completely understand them being upset if they weren’t getting the equal treatment and freedom they deserve. I have massive respect for the folks throughout history that have taken a stand and demanded their freedom.

I also have sincere respect for the older generations in general. Anyone who has survived segregation, wars, the Great Depression and other experiences that tested their spirit for years, deserves respect. Regardless of their opinions or beliefs, they deserve respect. Just for being survivors and for the trail they carved out for the rest of us.

I don’t have the same respect for the self entitled and arrogant types that demand respect without being respectable. Folks that think that just because they are breathing, the world owes them something. Do something productive and purposeful with your life if you want respect. Nobody owes you a living. Make something of yourself. Do something for someone other than yourself. Why should you get the same respect for being a knucklehead, that grandpa gets for being a war hero and raising a family? Grandma earned that gray hair by taking care of more than just herself.

Ask yourself what you have done to deserve respect. Ask yourself if you are respectable. Do you treat others with respect? Think of the best people you know. Why do you love and respect them? Probably not because they are selfish, arrogant or manipulative. You probably love them because they are generous, kind and respectable.

Demanding respect rarely deserves it. Giving it often receives it.

I grew up in the south. Central Georgia had a dominant redneck culture. My saving grace was a father who was just plain colorblind. He raised me and my brother completely oblivious to any difference in black or white. He has never expressed anything negative about a group of people, based on anything except their actions. We were never taught judgement based on things a person had no control over. Skin color was never an issue.

I worked construction for years. The word “nigger” was thrown around constantly. By both blacks and whites. It stressed me out daily. It still does. I don’t care who says it, I hate to hear that word. Anyone using that word has alienated themselves from any deeper discussions with me. They just pushed a judgement button in my mind. They have told me that they are not capable of rational thought.

I feel the same when I hear a man use the word “bitch.” He has just reduced an entire gender to the level of a dog. Regardless of the situation or the person, I can’t stand hearing that word. It’s just about as disrespectful as any form of racism.

When I was sixteen, I got a personal lesson in racism. I ended up in, what was essentially, a juvenile facility. 475 of us locked up together. 14 out of 475 were white. The tension was amazing. I saw kids beaten up daily. I was threatened and insulted regularly, just because I was white. It was not a good experience. I have been on both sides of that fence. Watching whites hate blacks, and watching blacks hate whites. It’s wrong either way.

I made a friend in a welding class, who happened to be the biggest guy in there. We just hit it off. Everyone called him Flattop. About six foot seven black kid with a haircut that put him close to seven feet tall.

One day, I encountered six large guys who decided that the white kid needed a solid beating. There were six guys I didn’t know and had never met. They were following me down the halls of the education building, on the second floor. I saw them coming. I could hear them behind me. I knew what was going to happen once I reached the stairwell. My number was up. They made sure I knew it.

As I reached the corner, about to turn towards the stairs, my mind was racing. How fast could I clear a flight of stairs? But, just before I had to find out, Flattop stepped around the corner. He reached out and slapped my hand and said my name so loud everyone heard it. Looking over my shoulder, I saw six guys turn around and go the other way. They didn’t want any part of him. The guy probably saved my life that day.

Even after stuff like that. I still didn’t have a negative opinion of anyone because of race. I still don’t understand anyone who does. Seriously. How does the color of your skin or your ethnic background make one person better than another? How does any of that make a person more or less valuable?

What I do understand is repercussions. If I robbed a store or attacked a cop, I would fully expect something bad to happen to me. The details might vary, depending on where I was or who I encountered, but I would have to expect something to happen. It’s always tragic when a life is lost. We can’t be happy about the way these things happen. All the recent incidents bother me. I hate that anyone died. I hate that cops have to make decisions like that. I also hate the way that the actions and decisions of a single person can sway public opinion of their whole race. I wasn’t there, I can’t really debate about how or why. It’s all just tragic.

It’s even more tragic that violence like that, spreads because of news media only showing the worst stuff. Their ratings are much more profitable when they get you angry, than when they show the positive side of those situations. It’s like Jeff Foxworthy said… “It’s not that southerners are any less intelligent than anyone else, we just can’t seem to keep the most ignorant among us off the television.” Broadcasting ignorance is good for ratings.

Hate and violence are never going to solve our problems. Whether you are black or white, we can’t be so narrow minded to judge an entire ethnic group based on the actions of a few. Let me take it a step father. Jesus said the two highest commands are to love God and love each other. As Christians, we have to get past this racism junk. Regardless of our skin color, it’s wrong to judge others on things they can’t control.

Attitudes and actions are controllable. Hold them accountable for that. Decide if you will invest time or energy into someone based on what they do. Not their skin color.

Every racist I ever met, felt completely justified for their beliefs. Each one will argue to their last breath that whatever group of people they hate, deserve it. They believe that they are superior to another ethnic group, or that the other group is evil, or just worthless. Those are the same attitudes that eventually led to the holocaust. One race hating another so much that they were almost eradicated. It still happens today. It starts with an attitude and decision.

If you can justify hating someone, eventually you will be able to justify hurting them. Or worse.

Grow up guys. Our kids are watching us. They are taking on our dominant attitudes. They are learning from us. Teach them better. Being a good husband and father is the best hope for our nation. Raise those kids to respect others and themselves. Teach them to make decisions about who they associate with, based on actions, not ethnicity.

Raise them colorblind.

4 thoughts on “Raising a colorblind generation

  1. Every time I read some of your stuff Im reminded of why I was drawn to you as a friend. You’ve gotten to be pretty wise over the years Erik. Thanks for a wonderful article.

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