Hannibal, MO, the boyhood home of Mark Twain,is described its claim to fame as a sleepy town drowsing. Most surely he hasnever been more accurate, for this small enchanted river town has never awakenedtotal equality. It is a town full of ignorance, where nobody has ever thought twice ofsharing 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 thoseno-good niggers, stay away from those half-breeds and give hell to anyone nigger-lover who refuses to believe the truth. It sickens me.
Last year, we had an issue to address at our school. It later becameknown as The Cowboys vs. The Blacks, and never has our school been moreinvolved. The newspapers screamed of the hate, violence, and threat of gangsthat were corrupting our schools; the halls rang with the lastest gossip on thenext big showdown. This problem slapped a school full of apathetic kids into alively bunch ready to get involved. Involved in what? A controversy that allhad opinions on, but how could you not have an opinion? It was the talk at allof the dinner tables, bars, and stores in town.
Kids went home scared of theracial tension. Parents whined and cried of violence in the school. The parents whined and cried, and at the same time forgot to rememberthat it was they, not the kids, who had taught the very prejudices that were disrupting the education process. My opinion is simple and elementary:Children are not born to hate others, they must be taught to judge colors. Ifwe are taught prejudices, then obviously, the racial tensions at my schooldidn’t disrupt education, rather enforced lessons often reviewed over friedchicken and potatoes. I cried once in my sophomore history class.
The girl in front of me sangand preached that life was just that way, no one could ever change anything, sowhy should we even try? Prejudice is taught in the home, and the home is wherewe learn 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 herpessimism. All eyes and ears were on me, and as my dramatic nature began toinfluence me, I started to preach.
)I have a theory. I created it. Some say I’m naive, others say I’m toohopeful, but so far no one has told me to abandon it, so I cling to my idea andshare it as often as the issue comes up. I have a story about my experiences.
At my grandparents house, wecannot watch Cosby without hearing a racist slur from my grandfather. Great guy,but racially unfair. My dad grew up around jokes and hints about those half-breeds’ and such, but I did not. Enter my theory. Somewhere in my family, theracist ideas were tamed, not eliminated entirely, but curtailed in such a waythat I was able to escape them.
How did my father, who was conditioned at anearly age to slight those of other cultures, unlearn?Two words: education and experience. My dad played football andstudied with people of different ethnic backgrounds. Although he was stillexposed to the beliefs at home, he was beginning to slowly form his own. Alwaysaround different cultural backgrounds, always aware and always learning thatmaybe what he had been earlier taught wasn’t entirely true.
Questioning all thetime, wondering if maybe they weren’t 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 wefall victim to other influences, and we question and reteach ourselves answerswe believe correct. We evaluate and review what we have been taught, andsometimes, if lucky, we are able to unlearn.
If my dad had never studied, sweated, and sheltered others of differentethnic backgrounds, 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 .