Break The Cycle: Racists only know what they were taught

If you'd been told all your life that little bunnies would attack you and rip your heart out, you'd grow up afraid of them, too

If you’d been told all your life that bunnies would hunt you down to attack and kill you and rape your mother and children, you’d grow up afraid of them, and wanting to get them before they got you, right?

We’re evolving, slowly but steadily. People who are afraid of other cultures, races and genders have been taught fear. They have lived a life of extremely limited real world experience, often in a small town with little cosmopolitan influence.  They only know what the fearful ones around them have told them is true.  The following question helped me understand how fear is birthed and how racism comes to be. If a person spent the entirety of their life inside of a pitch dark cave being told every day that the sun was a source of evil, how would they feel after being dragged into daylight? The racist south wasn’t something that appeared overnight...” It’s not easy to change your mind about what your folks told you to discriminate against. They believed they were keeping you from harm by keeping “them” out.   

A story from my own life

When I was about 8 years old, we went to visit some cousins we’d never met. We grew up in the city but they lived out on a remote country road in a ramshackely farmhouse. There were 6 of us playing in the yard at the end of the day and the oldest (about 16) began to tell a story. There was an old woman, legend has it, who was killed walking home from the market at sundown and her ghost still haunts the road to this day.

He and his brothers gleefully told horrid stories of people who’d encountered her and the tattered yellow dress she wore with long blue mens’ sweater and men’s work boots, carrying her groceries in a big potato sack. As they spoke, I noticed a stooped figure walking toward us, way down the road. I saw her clear as day, yellow dress, blue sweater, boots, potato sack. The cousins couldn’t see her, they said, but my brother and I did! 

The closer she came the more afraid I got, since the story was that she came back with a butcher knife to get revenge. She did keep looking in the potato sack, probably checking her knife.  By the time she got 100 feet away I was frantic, crying and afraid, knowing we were all about to be murdered. Thankfully my mom ran out of the house to save me! But instead she walked over and took the potato sack from the killer ghost woman. WTH??


 Of course, there as no killer ghost, the woman was merely their grandmother who was walking home from the market as she did every sundown. Except I wasn’t told, “My grandma visits at sundown.” No, my cousins had carefully set the scene so that when I saw the old woman on the road, I’d think she was the killer ghost of the “legend” they just told me.  Had they said nothing, I’d have thought I was watching an old woman walk on the road. But since their advance story was that a killer ghost roamed the road at sundown, that is what I saw.

On the gender bathroom issue

Women think nothing of taking their boys into the ladies’ room but what do men do when in public with their toddler daughters? I’ve held a public bathroom door for an elderly man in a wheelchair to enter, but did anyone help him once he was in there? These are examples of what happens when education about diversity, equality, sexuality and emotional intimacy is suppressed. We get a nation of those who are under- and mis-informed, who were unable to learn and grow and discover as they grew up. Instead they were indoctrinated into the fears of their fathers, growing up hating – literally hating and wishing and bringing harm to — entire groups of people they’ve never even met.  I pray for the awakening of the ones who were taught there is only one way.   

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