Confessions of a Former White Supremacist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is a true reflection on my racist upbringing. The first step towards wellness is admitting the problem.

Racism was a way of life for us in the sixties. We were a white, suburban working-class family of Texas. The civil rights movement was on, but segregation was still practiced. In fact, the local swim club where my sister and I played in the summer required a membership card for admittance. There were only whites in there at any time even though there were black neighborhoods nearby. Racist principles were more important than profits to some.

Many childhood memories involve me riding in the back seat of a station wagon. When I was not pestering my sister, I was usually listening to my parent's conversations. Current events often came up. I can remember how they accused Kennedy of giving the country to the Catholics. Likewise, court-ordered school desegregation was unpopular with my folks. Racial mixing seemed dangerous.

"Martin Luther King is right about some things, but he's taking it too far," my Mom once stated from the front seat.

The pastor of our church was not a civil rights leader. The Holy Ghost guided him in different directions than those demanding equal rights. Like all religious leaders, he taught us morality through his interpretation of the scriptures. We learned, for example, that the Jews were the chosen people of God. Women were to remain quiet in church and submit to their husbands at home. He also taught us to be racist.

Our Baptist church was all white. Indeed, one Wednesday night Brother Miles delivered a sermon in which he spoke disparagingly of dark-skinned people. He used every racial insult you could imagine and swore to never allow a black person in his church. An occasional "amen" was heard throughout the diatribe. No one got up and left. If anyone protested , it was later in private. Pastor Miles finished his vitriolic message by asking for approval from his flock. "Who in the Lord's house will back me up in this?" Men around the sanctuary raised their hands in support, including my Father.

It seemed perfectly natural to use the n word when talking about African-Americans. That is all I ever heard from my parents and grandparents. Brazil nuts were "nigger toes," We kids would play catch in the yard saying, "First one to drop it's a nigger!" My grandfather would warn us from picking up coins from the ground by saying," Don't pick that up. Some old nigger could've had that."

I went for a ride with my Dad and grandfather when I was only five. Too young to know better. We were maneuvering the streets of Fort Worth on a hot day with the windows down. We passed slowly by some black men who happened to be standing on the sidewalk. "Look at those old niggers." I exclaimed.

Both adults turned on me from the front seat. "Hush! Shut up!" I was confused.

"They might not like that," my Dad explained. It was the first time that I realized that that word was offensive to some. It did not stop me from saying it though. That would take years. Some of my family members still use the word from time to time.

There was one African-American girl in my fourth grade class. She was one of two such children that I encountered in elementary school. Her name was Tammy. (The other was Jack Parks who will come up again in this recollection). Tammy and I were indifferent to each other most of the time. Then one day, for some reason which I do not understand, I whispered this ridiculous question to Tammy during math class, "Do you want to be called nigger or negro?"

"Shut up!" she snapped. I was stupefied. Why did I feel compelled to ask her such an insensitive question? Was it childish naiveté or just plain meanness? At any rate Tammy and I never spoke to each other again.

That brings me to another racist memory from childhood. It involves my twelfth birthday. My Mom and Dad threw a great party for me. Mom made invitations for all of the students in my class. Jack Parks was the only black boy in my sixth grade class. We seldom spoke to each other. His name came up as we were going over the list of invitees.

 "Isn't he black?" Mom asked.

"Yea." I did not know it mattered at first.

"We shouldn't invite him," she said gently.

"Why not?" I inquired. "Well, it's just not what we do," she explained, lamely.

The next day I passed out invitations to every one of my classmates except Jack Parks. How many times have I thought about Jack since then? If only I could apologize? Does he even remember?

I have never been a member of any particular hate group. I do not think any of my recent family members or friends have been either. Most would deny being racist at all. Yet eventually the conversation turns to how blacks and Mexicans are "different" or Syrian refugees are like rabid dogs. How we need to protect ourselves from immigrants. The racist attitude is always lurking in the background, unconsciously pulling strings.

These days I am often guilty of complicit racism. It seems easier sometimes to remain quiet. Better not rock the boat. Just go with the flow. After all, I am a white male. Why not just enjoy my favorable status? How much of a difference can one man make?

My ideas have changed with the times. I no longer think I am better than others based on appearances. However, true enlightenment is slow to come. I fear any prejudices that might lie hidden in the dark alleys of my mind. Could they sneak out at inappropriate times thereby exposing the real me?

So usually, when some generalization is made about ethnic groups, I try to change the subject. Other times when the discussion becomes racial I leave the room until the subject changes to something less controversial. Society has changed since I was a child. I have changed as well. Times change, yet stay the same.

Submitted: February 06, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Rick Starbridge. All rights reserved.

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Tyrone Shoelaces

Mr. Starbridge, that was quite a confession. It is unfortunate that many people back in the 60's experienced those same thoughts. The sadness is that those same thoughts still are demonstrated today. Hopefully one day ignorance will be replaced with acceptance.

Sun, June 17th, 2018 1:33am

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