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I heard this saying on the news recently: “People are not born racist.” Nor are they born prejudiced. It’s true. Racism and prejudice are taught and learned. These teachings may start in the home, with family or with friends. It’s a cycle that needs to stop. Regardless of where the racism and prejudice come from it should have absolutely no place in the world today! Unfortunately, due to ignorance they both exist. 

What is racism? It is hatred, dislike or discrimination against an individual because of the color of their skin. It is also the belief that some races are superior to others. Some instances of racism and prejudice can be due to circumstance. 

Just look at what predominantly White law enforcement officers across our nation are doing to Black and Brown people. Video footage from the news, from police body cameras and from civilian cell phones have shown that an individual doesn’t even have to be resisting arrest to be attacked by law enforcement. 

Being a White woman, many may think I couldn’t possibly know what I’m talking about when it comes to racism and prejudice. But they’re wrong! I have been in relationships with African American men for my entire life. I have lived with African American families most of my teenage years. I have five beautiful biracial children. 

I’ve experienced racism and prejudice from both Black and White people. I’ve been talked down to, threatened, given dirty looks, watched in stores and have been called names. Some White people think I’m a disgrace to my race. Black people are mad because I’m with a Black man. My children are sometimes told they aren’t Black enough since some of them have light skin. 

Real unconditional love doesn’t see color. I am one of the lucky ones! I was raised in a home that didn’t see the skin color of an individual but rather their mind, their heart, and the love they had to give. People need to realize it’s a person’s individuality that makes them who they are, not the color of their skin. What’s the old saying? “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Our skin is our cover. It’s what is inside that matters. I know I am truly blessed to know no boundaries and love an individual because of who they are, not the color of their skin!

Can a prejudiced individual change? The answer is plain and simple: yes. But the individual has to want to change. Many people can’t fathom the idea. Maybe it was the way they were brought up or the people they hung out with. Maybe they are just set in their ways.  Many racist and prejudiced people are scared. They need to be educated.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Ryan Odom is an Irish writer incarcerated in California. She is the mother of five children.