Sunday, April 18, 2010

Racism from my point of view.

I have been asked to write a post on my take of racism. I'm not sure i am the best person for doing this. First I need to give some background about myself and why I feel I am not a typical white male in regards to racism. I am from Arkansas and lived in a rural area that left me little chance of contact with other people other then at school and teen hangouts. The county I am from had 5 different school districts and of those five, three of them were all white students. One of the two had just a few years before I graduated gotten its first black students. The biggest town, population wise, was the main area where there were blacks residing. I can't be sure but would say between 85-95% of the black population lived within a small area of that town.  It wasn't until I had turned 18 that I can honestly say I had any real contact with people of the black race. The contact I had until Oct. 81 was during sporting events and a couple of times at summer camps. One of the summer camps I went to when I was around 11 or 12 was the first time that I recall this group having a desegregated camp.
It was also at this age I saw the effects of racism for the first time.

I went to school at a small school that was one of the all white schools. The town only had about 500-600 residents when I was 12. Because I lived about 6 miles from town I seldom got to hang out in town other then when we had peewee football practice. A bunch of us would share bikes and go riding all over town. One day me and a friend were riding past this house that was near the school and saw a younger black couple moving into a home. I'm not sure if it was one or two weeks later but me and the same friend rode by that same house and it was completely different. All the windows had been busted out and there was a lot of graffiti painted on it. I never said anything about it until many years later and it was odd how some people reacted to it. The rest of the racism up until I left Arkansas for the army was whites talking shit that they had no reason for saying. I never said anything back and at times laughed at their jokes. Even today the town I went to school at is just over 97% white.

In 1981 I went into the army and for the first time I actually was forced to begin to understand that things weren't like I was always told they were. I guess I knew much of what I was taught as a child wasn't the truth but avoided questioning it. It wasn't until I got to my first duty station in Germany that I really started opening my eyes to the fact that other then skin color most people want the same things for their life. I have to give credit for this to SPC. Allen. He was actually very patient with me even though he really didn't have to be. Of course it took a few more years before I really got a basic understanding of how racism has truly hurt this nation. I guess the second big racist thing I saw happened while I was in the army.

I wasn't real big at hanging out with the people involved in this event but did know them all. The people involved were all white and the victims weren't actual people but the image that these guys presented. They were know within the unit as racist but they tended to keep it hidden from those in command. What final got them was a photo they took of a rope around the neck of a bust of a man that was black. Like most racist they weren't big on the brain power. They passed the photo around for others to see and a copy of it made it to the unit commanders attention. They were gone in a couple of weeks.

Earlier I talked about an event when I was around 12 and how some peoples reactions to the event were odd. I was attending PLDC, Primary Leadership Course, while in the army and one of the topics was racism. Some of the other students thought that race relations within the USA was pretty good but I disagreed with them. I used the two stories as examples of how there are still many racist out here and that to believe it is pretty good was foolish. They didn't actually believe my stories until one of the instructors took my side with me. What I found odd was that two of those disagreeing with me and not even believing me were black. We were in Kentucky and I knew black guys who wouldn't even stop at gas stations unless they were with others.  It really did surprise me that they couldn't believe how racist the area around Ft. Knox was. While I was there one of the main leaders of the KKK lived about 15 miles from the base.

Have I beaten my racist upbringing? No I can't say I have completely beat it. The reason I say I'm not a good example is I am not a very active person when it comes to making friends. I has a small group of people I call friends and the rest are just people I know. I have a set of rules I use to define what makes a person a friend and there have probably been less then 100 people in my 46 years that fit these rules. I would say less then 10 of those were people that have been non-whites. Even within the army I was a bit of a loner and prefer it that way. Some people might say 100 friends is a good number but you have to understand I have known several thousand in this time. While I was in the army I would meet around 100-150 new people every 12-18 months due to normal rotations within the army. I still have to be aware that I can easily base my opinion on peoples skin color not on their actions.

Where I live now the race relations have gotten better then they were back in the 70's and 80's. I know there are still problems and until everyone decides to base their views of people on actions instead of what their skin color is, it will be a problem.