ollege education. I come from a small town.
Hannibal, MO, the boyhood home of MarkTwain, is described its claim to fame as a sleepy town drowsing. Most surely hehas never been more accurate, for this small enchanted river town has neverawakened total equality. It is a town full of ignorance, where nobody has ever thought twice of sharing and spreading their sly comments and idiotic judgements to anyone andeveryone who will listen, and most people do. It is a town where fathers, mothers,brothers, sisters, and grandparents teach their kids to ignore those no-goodniggers, stay away from those half-breeds and give hell to anyone nigger-loverwho refuses to believe the truth. It sickens me. Last year, we had an issue to address at our school.
It later became known asThe Cowboys vs. The Blacks, and never has our school been more involved. Thenewspapers screamed of the hate, violence, and threat of gangs that were corruptingour schools; the halls rang with the lastest gossip on the next big showdown. Thisproblem slapped a school full of apathetic kids into a lively bunch ready to getinvolved. Involved in what? A controversy that all had opinions on, but how couldyou not have an opinion? It was the talk at all of the dinner tables, bars, and storesin town.
Kids went home scared of the racial tension. Parents whined and cried ofviolence in the school. The parents whined and cried, and at the same time forgot to remember thatit was they, not the kids, who had taught the very prejudices that were disruptingthe education process. My opinion is simple and elementary: Children are notborn to hate others, they must be taught to judge colors.
If we are taught prejudices,then obviously, the racial tensions at my school didnt disrupt education, ratherenforced lessons often reviewed over fried chicken and potatoes. I cried once in my sophomore history class. The girl in front of me sang andpreached that life was just that way, no one could ever change anything, so whyshould we even try? Prejudice is taught in the home, and the home is where welearn everything we really need to know. I listened, fumed, and stood up tointerrupt her. (I rarely frown, let alone yell, but I had had enough of her pessimism. All eyes and ears were on me, and as my dramatic nature began to influence me, Istarted to preach.
)I have a theory. I created it. Some say Im naive, others say Im too hopeful,but so far no one has told me to abandon it, so I cling to my idea and share it asoften as the issue comes up. I have a story about my experiences.
At my grandparents house, we cannotwatch Cosby without hearing a racist slur from my grandfather. Great guy, butracially unfair. My dad grew up around jokes and hints about those half-breedsand such, but I did not. Enter my theory. Somewhere in my family, the racistideas were tamed, not eliminated entirely, but curtailed in such a way that I wasable to escape them.
How did my father, who was conditioned at an early age toslight those of other cultures, unlearn?Two words: education and experience. My dad played football and studiedwith people of different ethnic backgrounds. Although he was still exposed to thebeliefs at home, he was beginning to slowly form his own. Always around differentcultural backgrounds, always aware and always learning that maybe what he hadbeen earlier taught wasnt entirely true. Questioning all the time, wondering ifmaybe they werent so low-down and no-good.
There comes a point in all of our lifes when we simply grow up. We nolonger blindly latch on to what our parents say. We believe ourselves before we fallvictim to other influences, and we question and reteach ourselves answers webelieve correct. We evaluate and review what we have been taught, and sometimes,if lucky, we are able to unlearn. If my dad had never studied, sweated, and sheltered others of different ethnicbackgrounds, I would have grown up hearing as many sly jokes and racistcomments that he did.
I would not, however, repeat them to my children. Why? Because I would have played in the sandbox at kindergarten with someone not likeme, cheered on a squad where not all .