Ramblings: I Am A Racist, and I Deeply Regret That

I am still working on Part II related to my last posting. However, events of this week (the mass hate-murders) have upset me and distracted my thoughts. I posted something very similar to what I want to post today a few years ago, but I know that I have a totally different audience today and felt I needed to re-post it.

Part of my motivation for posting this was a discussion I had with some people from where I grew up in the south, just this week. They were clear that they 1) totally support Donald Trump, and 2) he is not a racist but reflects their strong evangelical values. For me, I felt bewildered. I’ve known Donald Trump as a racist for decades. To question President Obama’s birth certificate was a pure racist maneuver and there is no other way to explain it. His public stance since being president has strongly reinforced that image.

I consider myself well-informed because I have watched virtually every pep-rally Trump has held as well as I watch his propaganda machine (Fox News) daily, along with CNN (which I admit has a anti-Trump bias), MSNBC, Aljazeera (in Arabic when I can), BBC, and my favorite (least bias) PBS or NPR news. I also read several newspapers online from across the political spectrum. So, to me, Trump’s racism is blatant, so blatant that I don’t understand why his supporters don’t see it. There must be something that is blinding them.

When I’ve had conversations like this with Trump supporters, at this juncture, they play the “partisan” card. They have told me to my face, “The only reason you don’t like Trump is that you are a lib-tard.” I usually disengage when it becomes political or personal. Others, and many evangelicals have said this to me, “How can you call yourself a Christian and not support Trump?” I am thinking just the opposite.

I want to end this political argument now by stating, before 2016 when I saw this disaster unfolding, I was very apolitical. I’ve voted for far more Republicans than Democrats (mostly based on fiscal responsibility, which turns out the Republicans don’t care about anymore anyway). I will also state, for the record, that I was never a big fan of Bill and Hillary Clinton but did vote (happily) for Obama twice. While I do think the Clintons are smart (I attended a meeting once with Hillary and was very impressed with her grasp of knowledge), I didn’t trust their judgment. But I didn’t hate their guts as the evangelical community was taught to do (through a lot of misinformation from Fox News). I said many times in 2016 that I was very disappointed in the choices (for president) given to us. It was voting for the lessor of two evils. I would have voted for almost any of the other Republicans (which were in the primaries), except Trump.

WHY I’M A RACIST

I’m going to tell you my story. Everything I say is factual. Others, family members, boyhood neighbors, etc. are appalled that I would call myself racist, when they don’t consider themselves racists, having shared the same upbringing. Listen to my story and you be the judge.

First, I will define racism, from the dictionary: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. I was tempted to expand this discussion to bigotry, to include discrimination based on other labels such as religion, national origins, and sexual orientation. But, for the sake of brevity, I will leave it with racism.

I was born in NE Tennessee and grew up in a small community of less than 1,000 people. There were NO people in my small town except for white “Christians.” I will say that it was a typical small town in the south.

The only time I knew of, where a family of color attempted to move to our small town was when my mother was a young girl. A black man and his sister moved into a small, porched cabin, not far from where my mom was living. Mom told me how the community was very upset (and this was in the 1930s). Quickly, rumors started in the churches that the two were practicing incest (no evidence to support that except that they shared a cabin). Everyone wanted them run out of town as soon as possible.

Mom told me that everyone was persecuting this pair, with the blessing of the churches. She also told me that my own grandpa (who I barely knew as he died when I was about 12) went over the cabin one night with some friends. Based on the (one of many) prejudices that black people are very scared of ghosts, they took a sheep, soaked in in kerosene. Then they ran a wire about neck-height around the posts of the porch. They set the sheep on fire and pushed it into the cabin’s back door. Of course, in the middle of the night with a ball of burning sheep running through their cabin, the man and his sister ran out the front door, where the wire caught them across their necks, causing them to fall off the porch. My grandpa and his friends thought it was hilarious. But it wasn’t enough (plus a lot of other harassments) to make them move away.

Finally, a group of teenage boys when over, kicked the cabin door in, dragged the man out into the yard. They were considering lynching them both as “God’s justice.” But instead, they staked the man’s wrists and ankles into the ground and then got a sharp stick and literally pried his eyeballs out of their sockets, blinding him for life. The couple did leave after that, because they knew that they would soon be murdered.

Mom says those teenagers were seen as heroes in the town. One of the teenagers, who did this terrible thing, was the town’s constable when I was a kid.

Also, when I was a kid, the ONLY name we knew for black people was the “N-word,” which I will represent with a capital N. I had no clue that there were other ways to talk of the black community until I was at least in high school if not college. We were taught that N’s were; very dirty, even nasty, lazy, immoral, scared easily, very dangerous, and very low IQ (a term Trump still likes to use). I’m sure that I’m forgetting something here.

The nearest towns with a black community were Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee. From the time I was a toddler, all black communities were called N-town. The cliché that my mother (and sometimes dad) would use, if we had to drive through such an area, was “Roll up your windows and lock your doors, we are driving through N-town.” That always scared me to death.

I have many memories about those days, but I will mention one more. When I was in middle school, I was very active with the Boy scouts, which was sponsored by the main Baptist church in town. Our leader was a man in his thirties (maybe forties) whose name was Chuck. He drove a GTO, and if I remember right, was known as lady’s man.

Every Memorial Day, we would join many other Boy scout troops from across NE Tennessee and camp at the big VA (which has hundreds of acres of lawn and a huge military cemetery) center in Johnson City. We would put American flags on the Veterans’ graves on Memorial Day.

One year, and I remember as if it happened yesterday, Chuck told our troop, “Boys, I just got our camping assignment. We will have to camp just next to a troop from Johnson City, which has Ns in it. I have fought against this. I know that you boys haven’t been around Ns but I had to serve in the army with them. They are all thieves (like Trump describes immigrants), and they will rob us blind. They also stink, smelling like ammonia or piss because they never take baths.”

So, Chuck made us lock up all our valuables in his car during the weekend, so that the Ns would not steal them. I will mention that Chuck, later became a supplier of pornography, alcohol, and cigarettes to his select group of middle school Boy scouts. I found out when I went to find him for some problem in camp and found him and his four favorite scouts sitting in his GTO—windows steamed up—all of them smoking, drinking, and looking at porn.

I will tell one more story and that is one of my classmates, in high school, wanted to start an official KKK club, as part of the school. The principal told him that he could not because the liberals in Nashville would not allow it as an official school club. But that he could start one as a private club and he would support his efforts. This friend tried to get me to join and I thank God that I had enough integrity, that even back then, I knew it was wrong.

I’ve visited my hometown many times over the years, to visit my mother. Each time I leave shocked that little has changed. Jokes about the Ns are common (and still the only name you hear for blacks is N). You can also hear the hatred toward blacks, gays, Hispanics and Muslims in so many conversations, and the reason they give for hating these people is because they, the one speaking, is a “strong Christian.” This makes me want to vomit.

I don’t know when I realized that I was a racist. I know that I had my first black friends in college. But I also know that I carried the fear of blacks well into my adulthood (not realizing it was part of that racism). I think the biggest thing that has helped me to see this, are my travels around the world. I’ve said before, it is really hard to hate someone or to stereotype them, once you’ve slept in their house, shared meals, and played with their kids.

Honestly, I still think there is an epidemic of racism in this country and those who are most racist, don’t see it at all. They hated Obama’s guts (not realizing it is because he is black). They think “Black Lives Matter” is crap. They don’t believe in the type of social justice that might favor minorities, to help make up (just a little bit) for the centuries of abuse and discrimination by us whites.

I pray often that God will help me to heal and change from this powerful upbringing, before my life on this planet is done. Mike

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Ramblings: I Am A Racist, and I Deeply Regret That

  1. Mike, I think we are all racist to some degree. The difference between Trump and us is we are aware of thoughts and actions and try to be less judgmental. It breaks my heart to hear about the awful things that happened in your home town. So many lives have ended in hate all in the name of Christianity, that I sometimes don’t want to be known as a Christian. But….that is man and not God. I have found a wonderful church that is inclusive and growing in my faith. God bless the world.

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  2. I have to admit that I feel sick reading your post this time. I was raised in Florida and I thought I was in the south but our racism and prejudice didn’t seem nearly as “physical” and cruel as you describe. The cruelty towards not only people who are different but the animals tears at my heart and soul. How can ANYONE celebrate that? When I look back on my childhood, I never could understand why people seemed to hate the negro so much. My experience was very limited. We had a “colored” gal come to our house to clean and occasionally watch out for my brother and I and I liked her. When I wanted to go to a church event in junior high school that included a black church, my father was furious and declared that I couldn’t go. I can still remember being angry and and wondering why it made a difference. When I went to college in Tallahassee, Florida was when I really came face to face with prejudice. I witnessed marches literally around the campus to fight for the right of the blacks who were enrolled at FSU to go to the restaurants on the streets next to the University. I cried when people threw tomatoes etc at the marchers and again I wondered “why”. My feelings eventually led to a crisis of faith. When I visited the Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, a woman showed me around the church and with some pride she pointed out where “the coloreds sit in the balcony.” I think she was proud that her church let “the others” come in at all. I was stupefied once again. I said to her “The God I believe in would not put the colored in the balcony. He loves everyone equally.” Then I left and walked out of the “church” for 15 years. I stayed in Florida after college to teach and found myself in a small town with small town thinking and after three years there the school was forced to integrate. I was thrilled and sorry that I was leaving the school (and the country) but I found myself in arguments nearly daily in the faculty lounge with other “enlightened” teachers who were either making jokes about the future integration or griping about it. I did indeed leave the country at the end of the summer of 1969 in the midst of race riots and racist rhetoric. By then, I couldn’t wait to leave.

    I will stop here and I am sorry that I posted such a long reply but your post stirred up such deep feelings in me that I had to write. I am not sure Mike that anyone who has been raised around prejudice, hate and brutal violence against one’s fellow man has to have deep scars and some measure of racism to deal with forever. I hope you heal. I hope I do too. I believe that God can perform miracles.

    Thank you Mike for continuing to share.

    Lynn Karns

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  3. One of things that happens when you think your time on this planet may be short, or at least shortened, you stop caring about offending people, if you need to speak the truth. I would not intentionally say things to offend people, but I’m no longer complicit because I’m afraid that someone might be offended, especially when it comes to human rights and saving our planet or just seeking truth. The point of my post, was that I was raised a racist. I am 100% sure of that. Some people from my same area have been offended by my statements. It is between them and God if they are racist and my point was not to call out others but to focus on my own racism.

    My brother called and confirmed that most of my stories were accurate, except for the fact that the black man and his sister didn’t just move away after the blinding incident but that his sister died from malnutrition, as they were very poor. He also said that my grandpa, the same one that my mother said did this terrible “prank” was bringing them food at the end. So, hopefully he had some remorse and kindness toward them.

    But my brother also added another story that in a nearby town a white, teenage girl got pregnant (her boyfriend was white as well). She panicked and said that a black man (father of 5) had raped her and made her pregnant. Without any investigation, the men marched down to the black family’s house and lynched all of them, including their little children. OF course, when the baby was born, it was pure white.

    I’m not saying everyone in the south is racist. There have been champions of civil rights coming out of the south who where white. But I’ve found the bar is set so low (our family never lynched any blacks, therefore we aren’t racist) that people don’t recognize their own racism. Each part of the country has their own vices and I believe the south does need a deep and sincere reckoning with their past and, sometimes present, view of people of color.

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