Ramblings: Why I’m Racist (and I regret it), Repost

This posting below is from a year ago. I am reposting it now for obvious reasons. I did edit out some stories about my personal family, not because those stories were not true, but because I made some people in my family very angry that I had shared those stories with the public. I did not grow up in a bad family and that is not what I’m saying. I grew up in a typical family in the south in the 1960s-70s. I’m saying that wholesale racism continues in the US, especially in the south and in the White House. Complacent racism is the worst. It is like the cancer you can’t see.


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 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.

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. It is interesting but that classmate, the head of the KKK in our school, just contacted me to be his friend on FB. I declined.

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


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