All the protests about the police and Black Lives Matter in the United States in 2020 has reminded me of a story that happened over 20 years ago where I was called a racist. I’d like to share that story now.
Way back when my son Paul was in 3rd or 4th grade, I was at home and he and his friend ran into our home and told me that a man was chasing them. They told me that there was a man in a car that was trying to get them to stop and talk to him. I can’t remember if that man was yelling or not, but Paul did exactly what I taught him. He ran away and came home!
I asked Paul what happened, and he told me that he and his friend called a black girl, from his class, the “N” word (sorry, I don’t want to use the actual word) when they were walking home. I guess she went home and told her father. Her father, who was a police officer, decided to get in his personal car, wearing street clothes, to track Paul and his friend down. I still have no idea why he decided to do that or what his end goal with that was. Since Paul ran away from him, he decided to go tell his school.
Then I got a call from the school that we had to go in for a meeting about it and this is where the story goes in a bad direction. Paul, his mother, and I arrived at the meeting early. When the girl’s parents come into the room, the first thing out of their mouth was that I and Pauls mother was a racist and we taught Paul the “N” word and to be racist. I got very upset because I could not believe someone was calling me a racist.
When I was a small child, I grew up on the east coast of America. I have always felt that that area is a lot more racist then where I live now. My relatives and even my parents might have taught me about racism, but I don’t know now that I am older. I do remember, when my family moved to Flagstaff, Arizona I felt that people there were less racist, so I worked hard when I was in the 5th grade to change. Even though there was a lot of racism going on when I served in the US Navy, from all sides, I have worked hard ever since I have lived in California to be less racist. Let’s face it, everyone is a racist, one way or the other. It’s what you do with what you were taught is the most important part.
Currently, I feel I have done a decent job on changing how I think about other races to the point now that I don’t see color, I try to see the person. I think my very first girlfriend in 7th grade was half black and Mexican. Most of my dates or girlfriends since I have been divorced were with non-white women. Even both of my kids’ partners are of color and all three of my grandkids are of color! At work, I am the only white person in my team, and they have even made me an honorary Pilipino!
So, when this girl’s parent called me a racist, it upset me. I did push back on the girl’s parents and the vice-principal and told them that Paul’s mother and I never use racist words at home. Heck, we didn’t even curse around the kids. We wanted them to learn not to use any of those words.
I told everyone in the room that Paul learned those words from other kids at his school. Also, the reason Paul even said the “N” word was that the black kids in the school use that word all the time. He was simply copying them. His mother and I didn’t even know he even knew that word, otherwise, we would have had a talk with him, which we did after this event happened. After all this, Paul still received an in-school suspension. I thought this was an overreaction, just to make the other parents happy.
In the end, I was upset we were called racists when the parents didn’t even know us! That is like me calling them a criminal just because they are black! So, I know first hand how people just jump to conclusions without knowing the facts. My wish, that I don’t see happening right now, is that everyone would do the same thing. There are always two sides to every story. I believe that if both sides tried to understand where the other side is coming from, there might be better outcomes. When one side just starts yelling, the other side either shuts down or put up walls to defend themselves; as I did in this situation.