Back into the minefield I go but I need to go there if I ever want to make sense of things here. The next step in helping me to do so is to talk about my own experiences of interracial bullying, so here I go. I grew up in very much totally white neighbourhoods. There were a few African Americans at some of the schools I attended but you could count them with your fingers. Out of the 1,500 students at my high school, seven of them were black and only one in my year. In the four years we were in high school, I am quite sure we were only ever in one class together, Sophmore PE. We hung in different circles, well actually he did, I just drifted through high school as almost a ghost. I stayed in my shell and nobody really bothered me, I liked it that way.
This is not to say that I didn’t encounter people who were racist, I certainly did. My best friend in high school’s father was a total racist using the N-word at will. Then there was the time when I was on the soccer team going to an away game. The bus was driving through a predominantly black town when some boy on the bus shouted, “Put up the windows before the spear chuckers get us. (I now realise how historically wrong that term is because Europeans fought with spears until the 17th Century.) While, to my shame now, I thought that was funny, I don’t think I was racist back then. Besides, in my history classes, I found myself disgusted over the topic of slavery and was very glad that the North won the Civil War. Furthermore, when I went to and worked at the bible camp during the summer, I made friends who were black, clinging tightly onto one minister’s words: “They may be of a different colour but they’re still your brothers in the Lord.” Is it any wonder that I was convinced that we all could play nice in the sandbox together.
My experiences of interracial bullying began when I entered the service. It was there where I first encountered African Americans who were as hostile as the media portrays them as and many white Americans assume they are. Like I had experienced earlier in life, my Asperger’s like qualities made me the ideal victim to people who say me as an easy target. That includes blacks who saw me as some “weird, spaced out white boy.” As a result, there were some who gave me a lot of grief. However, I didn’t see it as I explained it above. While these African Americans were hassling me, I was looking at the guy they didn’t but should have been focusing their angst on. He was a mountain boy and every bit the stereotype of the redneck. That wasn’t all, he also openly admitted, even boasted to being a member of the Klu Klux Klan. My thought was “Why are you picking on me when he is the one in the KKK?” This led me to conclude that African Americans had their priorities all wrong, they went after the wrong white people and this resulted into me becoming more prejudiced myself.
During this time, I encountered many African Americans who were racists themselves, which only served to fuel my oncoming racism. While none of the racism I saw was directed at me specifically, the occurrences I did see were enough to pour oil on the flames. The one that sticks best in my mind was the time when two African American guys were arguing and the argument became rather heated. The one guy reassured the other by saying, “I’m not going to hit you, you’re a brother. If you were some stupid ass white boy that would be different.” From that moment on, the incident left me sure that blacks were just as racist towards whites as the other way around.
When I got out of the service, I had the naive thought that it was different where I lived. More naively, I thought when I grew my hair long that blacks wouldn’t give me any grief because a teacher in high school once said that back in the 60s, blacks left the hippies alone because they were treated worse by society at the time. What I forgot was the 60s were long over and many of those hippies had cut their hair and conformed in the 70s and by the 80s, some of them were just as racist as the ones they had been protesting about on civil rights marches two decades earlier. But I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as the blacks were again picking on me and forsaking the ones who they should be focusing on. They still had their priorities skewed. In spite of what I have written, it wasn’t all bad. I did make African American friends when I was in the service and coming out. The problem was that like many people, I spent too long focusing on the negative instead of the positive. While, I knew for years that a person could be cool or a complete jerk despite skin colour, it took me a long time to realise it, maybe too long and I’m getting too old to let it consume me. After all, why can’t we all play nice in the sandbox together?
Next post: Part 3, Some Summing Up
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402953887&sr=8-1&keywords=he+was+weird