I got messaged that I was an unwitting racist. That is the third time someone has taken the time to inform me what I am. I respect all these people, but they been drinking the koolaid a bit…
I am not now, nor ever have been a racist.
I am very prejudiced against prejudice people. To me racism is the supreme act of cowardice…I don’t like you because you look different than I.
I was born into a military family, moving often; usually living in Army housing. I can’t remember not being around blacks, browns, asians etc.
I recall living in isolated Sand Canyon, California housing. Across the street was a black guy married to a German girl. They had two kids; one was dark black, the other looked white. This was in the early sixties. Everyone got along.
The high school I went to in Southern California was mostly white, but had a good percentage of blacks and what we then called “chicanos,” Mexican-Americans.
I had friends in all groups.
One of my black friends (who bought the farm in Nam) used to cruise the streets of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley with me.
Just him and me. Friends. Buddies. Had each other’s backs.
We knew we were different.
I recall a time that Dickey saw a group of black guys on the corner…I think in Granada Hills. It was late in the evening, we were a bit drunk; and Dickey yelled out the window at the group, using the infamous “n” word…and ducked.
The guys looked at me, yelled some physical impossibilities, and I floored the ’57 Chevy and got away listening to Dickie laugh uproariously.
I graduated high school and went into the Army.
Obviously I trained and served with blacks, browns, asians.
The first couple years were peaceful (I was initially stationed in Korea with a ten man detachment; two of which were black).
Then came 1968 and things got weird.
The first time I was shot at occurred in Germany.
We knew the Russians were going to invade Czechoslovakia. (I was in the ultimate oxymoron, military intelligence). My unit rolled out toward the border.
We overnighted at an Air Force base.
While walking to our quarters we passed a group of black airmen. They glanced at us and kept walking…
Which irritated our Lieutenant, who hailed from some southern state.
He yelled, “Hey, boys, don’t you salute officers?”
I was not overjoyed that he used the term “boys.”
Neither were they.
They did stop.
They did salute.
They walked away.
That evening they surrounded the billets we were in and began firing M14s. Thankfully we were armed with M16s; we were more sober than they, and as we returned fire they slipped away.
I know none of us were hit; I don’t think any of them were.
From Germany I went to Vietnam; attached to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
This was ’68-’69. The war was not only against the VietCong and NVA; it was against the conflict between the black activists and the rednecks.
Even though I had a couple black buddies in my unit; the racial tension was incredible, and confusing to me after my upbrining.
Not all whites were rednecks; not all blacks were activists. Most probably recognized we were all military issue brothers.
The closest I came to death was when my track was during a firefight when my track was hit by an Rocket Propelled Grenade that knocked me out of the turret.
Stunned on the ground, I had no weapon, was not sure where I was, and as the fight raged around me two black guys ran out and pulled me back into another track.
I remember July 9, 1969 as I was leaving country to go back to “the world” and discharge.
Sitting in the air terminal at Bien Hoa; I kept my back to the wall and watched the groups of blacks watching the groups of whites. Nothing was said, but the glares were intense.
I remember thinking, “I survived my tour, I don’t want to be wasted by a fellow American.”
After the Army I got involved with a group of drug dealers. We were a pretty big outfit; and we looked like the United Nations…whites/blacks/browns/asians.
The only time I ever heard the “n” word was blacks using it frequently while talking with/arguing with other blacks.
A few years later I was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to a dime.
I was converted to faith in Christ and the gospel while in jail.
The first few years of my Christian life found me worshiping in a black church. Didn’t realize it at the time, since I had never been in church except for weddings and funerals. But most of the inmates attending chapel were black; and they often led the services.
Which is why when I got out and started going to church on the streets it was rather boring…”Let’s stand together and sing the first, second, and fourth stanzas of hymn number 356.”
Prison is easily survivable if you “do your own time.”
Which means no running with gangs; racial or otherwise.
I was “discipled”, though neither of us knew that term, by a black guy who took me under his wing and, since he had been raised in the church, taught me much.
Since hitting the pavement, going to Bible school, and serving in youth and prison ministry full-time for fortyplus years; I still rub shoulders with other “races” often.
I preach at an all Korean/American camp every summer (except this covided summer) since 1988. I’ve spoken at an all Indian (Mar Thoma) camp several times.
When I look at a person I see exactly that…a person.
I try to recognize that every person I meet has God’s stamp on him/her.
I don’t file them in a box based on their color.
Red and yellow, black and white, they (all) are precious in His sight.
So though I will never apologize for being an old, white, conservative male; neither will I be silent if someone accuses me of being a racist in any form.
This is long; could have been much longer…and I thank you for reading it.
Allow me to close with one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite groups…(by the way, the song was released in 1995)