I Used to Be Racist

My freshman year of high school I was bullied a lot. I was nerdy (back before that was a good thing) and chubby and mildly socially awkward and such an easy target. Other kids would call me names, make jokes at me, and even harass me physically.

In Spanish I sat next to a guy who was a year or two above me. He was very distracting and made it hard to concentrate on my work. His favorite thing to do was to place his books or other supplies on my desk so that he could have more room. Whenever I tried to move his belongings, he would put them back, taking more space. Once he even used my desk to put his sunflower seed shells on as he cracked them in his mouth. The still wet shells bothered me to no end and when I picked them up with my bare hand and placed them carefully on his desk, he brushed them harshly back at me.

In English class one day, I had the sniffles. My constant sniffs were evidentially upsetting a fellow student, because he took it upon himself to pass me a tissue—an act that was nice. Having experienced in Spanish someone constantly placing things on my desk, however, I knocked the tissue away (I was wholly unaware that I’d been sniffling so loudly). The other kid took this as an insult. At least, that’s what I surmised when he hit me in the side of the head (and into a wall) with his textbook in the stairwell after class.

Gym was the worst, though. I had what one might consider a prototypical bully who picked on me daily in the locker room. I nearly failed the class because I would often feign sickness and therefore not have to change into my gym clothes*. Cooper was the name of my bully, and his bullying usually consisted of taunts and threats. There came a day when I decided to stick up for myself by feebly uttering a poorly executed comeback insult.

I guess it hit too close to home, because Cooper punched me across the jaw—hard. I fell to the ground and, determined to make a point, stood up and stared him squarely in the eye. When the locker room finally cleared out, I spent quite a bit of time looking for something in my locker—an excuse I gave myself as I pushed the tears back inside.

Bullying is terrible, of course, and I don’t share these stories as a way to bring pity to myself. On the contrary, I’m using them to illustrate something much worse about myself.

All the kids who bullied me in high school had something in common: They were all black. Because of this I developed a terror of all black people. I spent the next year avoiding eye contact with anyone of that race. If I was alone in a hallway with an African-American, I would hurriedly escape the area, shaking with fear.

For an entire year I was racist.

Eventually I got over it, realizing how silly it was as I started making friends with some very nice black people. The high school I went to was very diverse in all races and it would have been impossible to avoid any non-white person forever. I was put in a situation in which my options were either transfer schools or simply stop being stupid.

It’s shameful that I ever felt that way, but I was just a kid myself. I knew that I was getting assaulted and mocked by a few people and because of that, everyone else who happened to share that same physical quality were to be feared as well.

The thing is, though, that I was just a kid—and I got over it. I got over it, more or less, by myself and on my own observations of people as a whole, not just a single group.

So then why do we have such blatantly racist adults even today? If I could understand, as a child, that everyone from entire race of people are not the same, then why can’t grown men and women understand that as well? Why is there still such rampant racism among adults?

I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fear of the unknown coupled with self-segregation (and quietly forced segregation, even). We don’t afford ourselves the time to meet, interact with, and understand people who aren’t just like us. I also think that most peopleare racist to some degree—after all, I was picked on by all boys, but I wasn’t afraid of men or just African-American men, but all black people. It’s inherited from centuries of self-given superiority and pride.

Just because something is imbedded in us, however, does not mean that we must allow that to be an excuse. Racism gives us a reason to hate a single person by hating a whole race of people. And this is simply not acceptable. I’m all for hating a single person, but it must be on merit alone. The second you start hating someone because they’re different than you is the second you cross over into a much darker realm.

With all the riots and protests going on because of obvious race hate in our country, I’ve been hearing that new phrase that’s so popular among the delusional, “Racism is dead.” No, racism is not dead. We need to stop saying that it is and, instead, address why it’s still alive and thriving in our modern world.

Then we need to all realize how stupid it is. I was never getting picked on by black kids—I was getting picked on by bullies. One day I figured that simple fact out and I’m a better person for it. I cannot say, though, that I wasn’t being racist for that year back in high school, because I was.

But as an individual, I changed—which is something we as an entire planet need to do.

Footnotes:
*Luckily, our gym teacher was a drunk and didn’t care. I passed the class with a much higher grade than I should have.
†Not everyone—that would be an absolute; and you guys know how I feel about absolutes.
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Garrett’s 2014 Top Ten List

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Vice and Virtue

I particularly like the idea that everyone on the planet adheres to one of the seven deadly sins, however much we might not want to admit it. We each have one thing that we’re guilty of in regards to the capital vices, and the greatest step that any of us could take is to figure out which one is ours and admit it to ourselves.

There was a time when, if asked, I would tell you with ease that my sin was sloth—laziness. It certainly seems like something I’m still guilty of to this day. But then came a time in my life in which someone pointed out (rather blatantly) that this was not true.

As I sat in short grass, holding on to the handle of a machete, this someone asked me what I thought my sin was. I replied, rather sheepishly, sloth. But she shook her head, looked me square in the eye, and said, “I don’t think so. I think yours might be pride.”

I scoffed and brushed the comment aside, because surely I’m much lazier than I am prideful, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that she was right.

I’ve got way too much pride. I let my feelings get hurt very easily, I become spiteful over minor insults, often I think myself better than others, and I typically have a thought of myself being the one that’s always right*. If someone contradicts me, they are actually calling me stupid. I’ll carry a grudge longer than any sensible person would. If I should happen to do something good—be it painting a picture or just taking out the trash—I expect a pat on the shoulder and compliment.

Honestly, pride was never a vice that I considered to be a real deadly sin. After all, how deadly could it be? When I thought about the list of capital vices, the ones that stuck out were gluttony, sloth, wrath, lust, and greed. Those were the bad ones, the ones to stay away from. But as I reflected both on the list of seven and upon myself, I began to realize that pride could be just as deadly.

Okay, maybe not in the literal fashion—which is how I always interpreted them—but certainly in a spiritual way. I’m not a Christian anymore, but I can still appreciate some of the Christian teachings. The seven deadly sins were never about taking care of your body, only your soul. They were things that corrupted and twisted your soul until it was dirty and dangerous. And what could be more dangerous for your spiritual self than believing yourself better than others?

Some religions believe, in fact, that pride is the sin that all other sins stem from. Which makes sense, really. Having too much hubris, thinking yourself higher than your fellow man, would definitely lead to thinking you deserve more of everything, be it food, service, sex, or money. And if you didn’t get any of those things you believe you deserve? Well, here comes the wrath; here comes the envy, as the old song goes.

In the darkness of capital vices, however, there is a glimmer in each of us; for, if we all have our sins, we all have our virtues as well. Mine, I feel rather confident in saying, would be patience.

Each of the seven deadly sins has an opposite virtue. For example, greed’s is charity; sloth’s is diligence; envy’s is kindness. Truly, the only way to battle our main sin is to practice its opposition. For me, that would mean bowing to humility.

This is something I’ve been trying to do for years by admitting when I’m wrong, or doing something with zero expectation of recognition. I’ve also held my tongue many times when I knew I was right, simply to keep my head from blowing up like a balloon.

There is still a part of me, though, that says people should listen to me (since I’m always right, after all). I still roll my eyes at people and find myself thinking I could do something better than someone else. I blame people for things that I sometimes do myself, even; but more often than not, I realize this and call myself out when I do.

I still have my pride, but I’m working on it.

Just not very diligently, because, y’know…sloth.

Footnotes:
*Even thought I am always right.
†That’s not an old song. Frankly, that line doesn’t make any sense and I should cut it. But I won’t. BECAUSE OF PRIDE!
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Facebook Weekly News


It’s been a pretty crappy couple of weeks in terms of news. Things have been downright not-okay. So here are a few items you may have skipped over as the internet infuriated you this fortnight.

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I’m a Horrible Human and an Awful American

I didn’t vote. In fact, I’ve never voted. This is something that I try not to admit in public because it comes with a certain level of shaming. You casually mention it after a big election and all of a sudden you’re being lectured about the importance of Democracy or being told that it’s my generation’s fault that America is going to shit.

So you’ll please understand my hesitance in writing this piece today. I’m sure I’ll get told by someone that I’m a terrible person for not partaking in America’s most endearing tradition.

However, there is a very specific reason why I don’t vote. I don’t vote, see, because there hasn’t been a politician that represents me. I’ve yet to hear from anyone that says things to get me fired up.

This is where you come in with that dusty ol’ election phrase we’re so fond of: “Sometimes you just have to pick the lesser of two evils.” The number of times this has been said to me is absurd. More than absurd, it’s just sad.

It’s sad for two reasons. The first being that the word “sometimes” is almost always used, but what the person really means is “always.” That’s a differential margin of about one hundred percent.

Secondly, what you’re saying when you tell anyone to vote for the lesser of two evils is not that we need to compromise a little bit to get someone good into office; what you’re saying is we should give up on major things we believe in so that the worse guy doesn’t get elected.

Someone I know, who says this “lesser than two evils” phrase around every election to me, once made a decent argument: His point was if you were being forced to vote between two absolutely horrible people—say Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein—you have to consider which will do less damage to the people. He said that one of these two people will get elected regardless of whether you vote or not, so why not try and get the one that will do less harm?

An excellent point, except for a few things: I don’t have to vote. Despite what some old-timers will tell you, voting is a right, not a privilege. Though it might be a privilege to be able to vote*, in this country it is a right—given. And being a right, I can choose not to do it.

Another flaw in that argument is the idea that you should vote to keep someone out of office. Voting should never be used to take power from one person—no matter how devastating and corrupt that person is. Voting should only be used to give power to someone who represents the things you believe in.

Lastly, to think that because you voted for “the lesser of two evils” keeps you pure from the wrong-doings, or potential wrong-doings, of anybody is delusional. If you, say, voted for Hussein who then wins and does a victory lap by murdering thousands of people, is that a victory?

Is damage in any form to any human a victory? Is suppressing rights of any group a win? Is the act of keeping poor people poor a success? Is allowing corruption in any right to flourish progress?

Nothing and no one that would hold down any person could be considered a triumph for America or the world at large. We don’t need any more “lesser evils” in politics. We, as a people, shouldn’t have to choose between the person who believes the complete opposite as us or the person who believes mostly what we believe.

Of course, the larger issue is the two party system. You can slap me in the face while shouting, “BUT, GARRETT, THERE ARE LOTS OF PARTIES” all day long, but it won’t make it any truer. In America there are two political parties and hundreds of under-funded campaigns of people who get ignored by the media.

If, in 2016, there rises a candidate who shares my morals, I will not only vote in the election, I’d also vote in the primaries. And there are candidates out there I agree with. A couple of them are even planning on running in the next election, which gives me a little sense of hope.

But I refuse to lower myself to vote simply to keep someone out.

As a prime example, here in my home state of Kentucky we had two candidates to choose from for Senate: Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes. By a long shot, one of these two people is much more evil than the other. Actually, the more evil one took the seat. Mitch McConnell, who has done nothing good for the common man kept his position along with his smug, turtle grin.

It’s been suggested that Alison Grimes didn’t win (and, subsequently, McConnell did win) because of folks like me who didn’t vote. But that’s not at all true. It’s not true, of course, because I wouldn’t have voted for Grimes. She was all for certain things that I’m vastly against. Why would I vote for someone who was so determined to show her love for coal that I’m surprised she didn’t grab a pickax and jump into a mine? Why would I vote for someone who was so ready to pander to centrists and uncertain Republicans that she went on screen and shot a gun into the air?

I wouldn’t have voted for Grimes even if I had voted. But I also wouldn’t have voted for McConnell. And though it’s true that a dry monkey is a wet suit could do a better job as a Senator than Mitch McConnell, it doesn’t mean that I should vote for someone who I believe wouldn’t do what’s really important in Washington either.

This is what it ultimately comes down to, too. Are we, the American people, going to continue shrugging our shoulders and saying, “At least they’re not as evil as the other guy,” or are we going to start demanding politicians who are not evil at all? Are we going to sit back and accept the corruption or are we going to speak up and tell Washington to shut down things like the Citizens United that make it harder for decent people to be seen and heard? Are we going to close our eyes, point to a name, and hope for the best or are we going to stop blindly voting for anyone with a (D) or an (R) behind their name?

I have been told that I’m part of the problem by not voting; I’m only helping horrible people get into office by abstaining from the processes; that I think I’m keeping my hands clean by not voting for the lesser of two evils.

Well, the truth is, my hands are clean—not because I’m not doing any work, but because I’m not lowering my standards until I’m digging through the trash.

Okay, now that I’ve said all that, I’d like to make something very clear: I’m not telling anyone not to vote. What I’m saying is, don’t accept a candidate simply because they aren’t the other guy. Find someone you like, help promote their name and message; decide who you’re going to vote for based on how their ideals match up with your own. But if you can’t find that person—well, fuck it. Don’t vote. Instead, send letters to your Representative asking for the end of big money in our elections.

Footnotes:
*A privilege that’s actually taken away from certain people for stupid reasons, too. How can it be called a privilege if it’s not available to a twenty year old kid who went to prison for having weed on him? Or if it’s not even an option for immigrants trying to become American citizens but are hung up on bureaucracy?
†Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be a bad ticket. Not at all.
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Reaction Video: The Star Wars Teaser Trailer

I saw on my phone that the new trailer had come out, but I was at work, and like hell was I going to watch the new trailer on the tiny screen of a cell phone. So I waited. And waited. Until finally I was at home, and I watched the new trailer. Three times. In a row. Then some more later.

I may have tear up with excitement.

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Thanksgiving in Ferguson

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And beyond meaning that you get to stuff your face uncontrollably for hours on end, it also means you get to spend quality time with your family.

In this upcoming holiday, meant to give thanks for the things we have, I have a bit of advice: Don’t talk about controversial stuff. Don’t do it. You may be tempted to bring up how the pilgrims basically used the natives for their own gain, or that we would later murder them in mass numbers and force the rest of them to live on isolated lands of our choosing. You might want to talk politics and about how Obama helping immigrants is the Christianly thing to do. You may bring up religion alone and talk about how Islam isn’t that bad and is often cast in a negative light. Hell, you may even be tempted to bring up the most controversial topic of all and finally admit to your family as a whole that Star Wars Episode I wasn’t really terrible and it’s a movie that sort of holds up, if you ignore the blatant racism.

Just don’t do it. Don’t talk about any of these things because they usually end in a shouting match and someone storming off into the cold November world until someone else comes chasing after them to remind them that none of us agree on anything wholly and not to worry about it.

However, there is one thing we should all talk about—or, at the very least, not avoid.

We should talk, together and openly and without personal spite, about Michael Brown. Especially if your family, like mine, is all white. We need to talk about it because there are still some misconceptions about what happened. We need to talk about it because this isn’t an isolated incident. We need to talk about it because all over the country tomorrow, families of color will be getting together just the same as ours—and you can bet your ass that they’ll be talking about it.

Most importantly, we should talk about it because out there in Ferguson, Missouri, there will be one family in particular gathering together for a family meal, minus one. Perhaps they will leave a seat open for their son—only just a man in the eyes of the law—which will not be filled tomorrow. Perhaps they will cancel their Thanksgiving all together. I can’t say for sure.

But what I can say for sure is that my own family will be together for a large meal in which we will all stuff our faces uncontrollably, and we will all be there. My mother won’t have to weep over her turkey and stuffing; my father won’t have to hold in his anger for the rest of my family’s sake; my sisters can worry more about the parade far off in New York rather than riots and protests just outside.

This post is not about taking sides in what was clearly a horrific event. It’s about realizing that, whatever side you’re seeing the entire thing from, you should—for tomorrow, at least—see it from the perspective of the family who lost a son sixty-five years too soon.

And be grateful for what you have.

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