16 | How I Fight My Inner Racist

If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I was racist you would have heard me say,

“ No I’m not racist, there is just a difference between black people and a nigger”.

Now admittedly this is utterly wrong and It’s painful to think that this would come out of my mouth or mind. I grew up in the small town of Westminster in Maryland, where every other truck had a confederate flag in the window. I don’t think I had a black person in my class until high school. It wasn't until just a year or two ago that I truly started to reflect on my upbringing and how it was shaped to include racism.

I started to wonder how and why I ever had racist thoughts. Why was I inclined to say things like I did. Why would I second guess a black person that’s just walking down the same street or in the same store as me? I remember being taught that “unequally yoked” in the bible meant whites shouldn't marry blacks, “That’s not how God intended it to be” I was told. On the flip side of this, I was listening to music like “Colored People” by DC Talk, that was teaching diversity and how to see beyond skin color. I think most of my racial tendencies were not intentionally taught to me by any one person but subliminally over years of growing up in the community.

One summer day when I was in middle school, I was riding in the car with my Grandmother, Aunt, and cousins. A car with a couple black people in it, drove up next to us and I remember saying something like “Don't’ look at them, they might shoot us”. I literally have no Idea why this came out of my mouth or what I was even thinking. I think I was trying to be funny at the time. Well, what happened next was a moment that I will never forget. You see what I didn't tell you was that my Aunt was black along with my cousins in the car. My Aunt questioned and scolded me for a good while on why I would ever say or think such a thing. I am not the least bit mad that she did that.

I wish that would have been the moment to cut off any racial bias in my head, but it wasn’t. As my sister got older she met her now fiancé. He is black, and I, along with much of my family instantly put up a fight to accept him. Now like any relationship there were ups and downs, and my sister would say to us “you just don’t like him because he's black”. I would respond with “No it’s because of X, Y, and Z not because he's black”, but if I am being brutally honest It was because of both. Sadly when talking to friends about the situation I would say the quote that I started this off with “there is a difference between black people and a nigger, and he is the later”

I have since changed my thinking and I am ashamed that this was my mindset, but as a part of my healing/ moving-on process, I needed to verbalize this.They have two beautiful children now and I love their whole family so much.

Early in my career, I was touring with bands doing sound all around the world. Ironically, perhaps, most of my tours and shows were with R&B or Hip Hop artists like Kem, Fantasia, Anthony Hamilton, Ne-YoLudacris, and many more. Gradually over time, through getting to truly know people on these tours, I started to realize “they” were literally no different than me. I believe this helped me realize how wrong I was and I began to try and erase and reprogram my head. But I was still naive to how big of an issue racism still was in the US. I would think things like “why can't they just get over it, or this was a 60’s thing it's not that bad now”. Even as recent as the Baltimore riots and the Black Lives Matter movement, I could not understand the need for “them” to protest the way they did. That perception has completely changed.

What changed my perception recently the most was listening to people like Propaganda and Derek Minor on podcasts like The Bad Christian Podcast and The Liturgist Podcast. More specifically  Episode 34 - Black and White: Racism in America. I cannot even begin to explain in a few words here all that was said on that episode, all I can say is it was so eye opening and literally life changing.

I believe we need to take the time to listen to people's stories and perspectives. We need to take the time to process and understand where people are coming from rather than jumping to our predisposed assumptions of how we see things. Denial that racism exists just because you didn't experience it or denial that you are not part of the problem will only make matters worse.

I still struggle from time to time with racist thoughts but the difference is now I catch them and actively have conversations in my head to work on reversing it. Sharing your story can be just as much of a help to yourself as it is to others. It’s part of the healing and change within yourself, to verbalize it all. Writing this all out was not easy and could potentially even hurt people close to me, but I needed to do it. I hope this helps others like it’s helping me.

Part of the 28 Days project is to ask ourselves what our hope for the future is. Mine is for my kids. The biggest change I believe that will last the longest and be most effective is the way I raise my kids. My daughter who is 8 now, has so many friends and people in her life from many different races. I believe my wife and I have done our best so far to teach her to see past skin color and not even consider it as anything different. If we can effectively help teach our kids the proper way to see people, we can radically change racism in America within a generation.

28 Days is a project about perspectives of people whose lives intertwine with the black struggle either personally or through others close to them. Along with their perspective they entrust us with what they hope for moving forward.  

We hope this helps drive conversation, breaks down barriers and incites change.

For more perspectives like this one check out the 28 Days Project. 

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