Peeling Away the Layers of Ignorance and Embedded Racism From My Heart and Mind

peeling away the ignorance and racism

When I decided to go back to school in 2014, it was triggered by homeschooling my sons for two years while living in Massachusetts while my husband was going to graduate school at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. I had initially thought I’d like to major in psychology, but while registering for online college at Southern New Hampshire University, I found there was a BA in English Creative Writing…something I’ve had an interest in from my pre-teens, teens, and through my mid twenties. This passion for writing faded to the back of my mind when I got married and had children. My focus, rightly so, was on my marriage and children, but I’d not lost the desire to write again over those nearly two decades, so when I saw this degree and the classes required, I quickly told my advisor I wanted to switch my major to English Creative Writing in October 2014. Currently, I am still a student and will finish up my degree in late 2018 or early 2019, depending on whether I take off a term next summer for a family vacation or not (mostly likely, I will).

woman writing in notebook

I started writing again in September 2014. I’d started writing a story loosely based on my early life (my early twenties), and in doing so, because of writing third person and working in the mind of the main character in her struggles with heartache, naiveté, selfishness, and extreme passions to the point of obsessive behavior for a few years, I learned much about myself and could see outside myself objectively and realized I was just as much to blame for the problems in my romantic relationships as the man/men. This first epiphany actually brought me peace of mind, strength, closure, and a sense of catharsis.

finding peace

My first class for general education required courses was History 1865 to the present out of the three selected classes available. This class opened my mind and heart, and I learned a lot that I didn’t through primary and secondary school either because I was bored and ignored what was being taught or these details were not elucidated in my history classes. I had studied the Civil War in my late teens out of great interest in the mini-series, North and South, reading the book of the same name by John Jakes, and eventually reading true historical volumes on the Civil War. I knew about the evils of slavery, but also good people from both the North and the South, because rarely is anything involving people, events, relationships, and history entirely black and white. I knew about lynchings and the KKK. I knew generally about Martin Luther King, Jr., but he wasn’t somebody discussed in great detail or admiration in my home growing up, just in passing. I knew even less about Malcolm X. But I did learn a lot about these two men and what true evils were going on, especially between the decades of the 1930s through the 1960s and early 1970s in the American South in regards to the oppression and deadly actions towards people of color through this class, and it made me sick and still does. While taking this course, I watched a few documentaries on my own out of pure interest and wanting to learn more on certain cases or events that weren’t detailed enough for me in the history e-textbook. The best two documentaries I watched were Eyes on the Prize:  America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 and White Like Me.

eyes on the prize pic
Eyes on the Prize trailer:

white like me pic

White Like Me trailer:

Both were colossal eye openers for me. The attitudes of the white college kids questioned in the documentary White Like Me turned out to be what I had been thinking subconsciously the past couple of decades. I realized this by searching my heart and mind and through introspection. It is true. We white people do not have a clue what or how other people live or encounter on a regular basis. Of course, nobody really knows totally how other people live because they have grown up differently in different backgrounds, ethnicity, class, etc., but all I knew was that I could relate to these white college students that had no idea about how they’ve had it easy in some aspects of their lives and how we think about people of color compared with our own race. I was guilty of that and still have to monitor myself because it’s like Tim Wise points out in the documentary, it’s so embedded in our culture that even people of color think whites are superior to them, generally speaking. This is really sad and horrible how conditioned we are within our society and that it is instilled in our subconscious.

Parting the Waters

These documentaries prompted me to read the book Parting the Waters – first of a series of three books on the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Martin Luther King’s years. I finished this over 900-page book last month. It was excellent and very thorough and a fair and objective compilation of history at that time. I plan to get the next book in the next couple of weeks. I want to continue learning this and the plight of the Native Americans through colonization and genocide in this country that was either whitewashed when I was in school or I was told biased views from the side of the colonizers without regard to those native people we were lied to, oppressed, and many killed off. It is because for years and years, I’ve had an interest in history that I want to read more and learn more on this.

It was around 2010-2012 that I started to realize people I became friends with on the internet are not cardboard cutouts with opposing political views. First, he/she is a person.  Seeing the person as a fellow human being is most vital as that is how a Christian, an Orthodox Christian in my case, should treat others. Whatever the person’s likes or dislikes, political views, etc. should be lower on the totem poll of what connects me to my fellow human beings who are all made in His Image. Mutual kindness, empathy, and truthfulness, like in any relationship no matter the type, is what is most important to me.

hands clasping

Lastly, through my classes in anthropology, psychology, history, world literature, and literary theory, I’ve discovered, acknowledge, and recognize the realities of the treatment of women in Western and Eastern cultures of the world. I was never a feminist and because I was indifferent to women’s struggles and fights for equality, other than I agreed in equal pay for women, I was complicit out of ignorance and apathy, to the objectification of women and the silencing of their voices (not speaking for the extreme views) that were legitimate and accurate historically.

women's rights for equal pay sign

Since I switched from a worldly political viewpoint to a spiritual Christian one back in 2009/2010, I see all of these things I’ve mentioned. I started to wonder why white people seem to almost exclusively be the race who has had the power for the majority of the existence of humanity. My son once told me about two months ago that he hated being white because of all the bad acts committed by them, but I told him he shouldn’t hate being white. Not all white people in our history have been cruel and drunk on power and oppressed other people. I continued by telling him that God created us and we should be grateful and thankful. We just need to show the Light of Christ to all by showing kindness, empathy, and love to all.  He agreed.

james baldwin not your negro

I had watched a documentary recently with James Baldwin called I am Not Your Negro, and he had said it was up to the white people to change the tide through eliminating fear and thus hate and racism. From what I’ve watched and read, many white people are afraid of losing power and of colored people “taking over” our country. At this point, not only good education is needed, but also with the tensions going on between whites and blacks, a real need for true sit down, honest discussions are crucial to have some type of starting point to connect and heal. Until this is done in a real sense, the ignorance, hate, and violence will continue.

It’s true that knowledge is power.  Discovering and unveiling my prejudices, ignorance, and embedded racism helped me to work on changing my mind and heart.  I hope whoever reads my blog searches their hearts and minds and if they find something very negative like I did, they work toward eradicating these thoughts.  There’s much more for me to learn, and I’m in it for the long haul. May God have mercy on us all and grant us strength and peace.

love your neighbor as yourself


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