Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Somber Anniversary

"Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out." ` Sydney Smith

On this 1 year anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, I thought I would re-post a previous post. Out of all the events since September 11, 2000, nothing has impacted me or made as significant a change in me as Hurricane Katrina.

I'm not the only one. Blogger buddy
ER was also profoundly impacted by the catastrophe. He and I were effected by it differently, and it led us in different directions ideologically, but none can deny the profound impact the event had on our lives. Perhaps you readers can site similar ephiphanies.

The following appeared on my blog on September 8, 2005. This is how it changed me:

Stay with me on this posting. Read it all the way through. It is important to me for you to understand what I am trying to say, so don't read a few lines and then skip to the comments to leave a comment about how I am a Nazi or something.

The hurricane last week has made me rethink some things. As I said in a previous post, it has laid bare my heart.

Also, in a previous post, I mentioned that my son calls me a racist.

I guess I am.

See, I grew up in a different time, another place. There were no black people where I grew up. At least not any that I knew personally. In the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a low income apartment complex a few blocks away. Only black people lived there. I don't remember my parents ever saying anything about them, good or bad.

All I knew about them was what things I noticed about them:

They stayed up all night.
They slept late in the day.
Their yards were messy.

They were scary to me, a child with no knowledge of them. I stayed away from them. I never actually had to interact with a black person until I was in high school, and I was surprised. They were pretty much the same as me, except for their color. And an attitude. I think it was the attitude that made me a racist. They seemed to carry chips on their shoulders. That is, of course, no excuse.

I didn't know at the time that my chip was bigger than theirs.

Anyway, most of my life I have known many African Americans, some good, some bad. Since high school I have had to interact with them more and more as they have assimilated into society. Then, I came to the conclusion that I didn't like them unless I got to know them personally. Once I got to know one, I always liked them. Always. But I had to get to know them first, and I didn't go out of my way to do that.

Still, I was wary of Black people. Distrustful. Even after I learned that there were no big differences between them and me. I learned to get along with them and be nice to them. I learned to interact with them in business, at sporting events, in recreation, and in church. To all observers, I was not prejudiced. I tried hard to treat them with respect, and the way I would want to be treated.

But whenever a crime was committed by a black man or woman, I would think to myself, "Of course, it is a black person". Whenever I found out some black person had a different last name then his daddy, I said, "Of course, he is black." And so on.

I hid my prejudice well.

In spite of my attitude, I began to accept them as equals. I made friends with some of them. Once my black friend Tim and I went to a singles bar. (that was when I drank) He was going to show me how to pick up girls. He had a really good sense of humor and he was slow to anger. That evening someone in the bar called him a nigger to his face. He just smiled and motioned towards me and said, "Yep, and this is my Massa" Later, he told me that whenever some white guy called him a nigger he got himself a white girl just to spite them. Except he didn't say "got himself". I think you know what he really said.

I laughed but secretly I said to myself, "Of course."

I had another black friend when I lived in Lubbock, Texas. His name was Kevin. He took me to Odessa to visit his mom and siblings one time. Man, that woman sure could cook! It was in his mom's living room that he told me that black people were taught from birth that they were supposed to always lie to "whitey".

Stupid me. I believed him. I remember I thought, "Of course...He's black!" He probably laughs about that to this day.

So, over the years I have learned that black people aren't really different than white people. It has been a long difficult lesson to learn. I have lost out on a lot of rewarding experiences because of my prejudice. I have missed out on having a lot of loyal friends, too.

Still, now and then, inside my pointy little head, my racist brain screamed, "Of course. He Is black".

There was one reason that I have continued to be racist over the years. It is those people, white and black, that maintain the division between the races. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Lewis Farrakhan, Teddy Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Robert Byrd, etc. They maintain the division by spreading hatred between the races. They do that by accusing people who aren't in the least racist of being so. It's hard not to be racist with all those influences.

Then came Hurricane Katrina.
Look at this picture. What do you see? Do you see a black woman? So do I. But I see a black woman who is hurting. She hurts. We hurt. I hurt. All God's children hurt.

My heart goes out to this unnamed woman. My heart goes out to all the victims of Hurricane Katarina. It matters not if they are black or white. They are people. People who live, love, hate, laugh, cry, worship, interact, suffer.

People who die.

I don't think I am racist anymore.


Erudite Redneck said...

Thank you, for acknowledging that, whether you agree with it or not, what happened in and through me was real.


Ms.Green said...

Mark, one thing I've observed is that color is not really the issue, but culture. Education and Faith are two extremely important factors that mold a society or culture of people. Blacks in one part of the world may be totally and completely different than in other parts of the world. The same can be said of Whites, Browns, and every other color. It's culture-not color.

Mike's America said...

It's a shame that the race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Mayor "Chocolate City" Nagin did so much damage to race relations in the wake of Katrina.

And despite the knowledge that more white people died in the storm, they're still playing the race card rather than accept any responsibility for the fact that New Orleans failed it's neediest citizens while nearby Mississippi, which took the brunt of the storm's fury was able to take care of it's people.

Lone Ranger said...

Houston is paying for its generosity in taking in Katrina victims with a soaring crime and murder rate. This has less to do with skin color than it has to do with tribes.

Mark said...

LR, I read the article you linked to and I am so glad you included it with your comment. I wish all those people who who are so disrespectful of you would read it and come to know, as I do, what a compassionate and intelligent man you really are.

ER, I never said what you experienced was anything but real and I have always acknowledged it. Both of us looked at the same situation and saw hurting people. You looked for someone to blame and I looked for solutions.

Pamela Reece said...


Once again I agree with Lone Ranger and the others. Katrina changed all of America, and it did. Our eyes have been wide opened.

Gayle said...

Wow Mark... no one can ever accuse you of not being honest!

You are very well written and I enjoyed this post immensely. I've been there too, and it's a hard place to not go too if most of your experiences with blacks when you were young were bad ones as mine were. I've come a long way since high-school though; the military helped me learn that skin color makes not one whit of difference. Some of the finest people I've ever met in my life are black. It is a "culture" issue and nothing more.

Blessings to you!