I hear you G.F., B.T., T.M., J.B., R.B., D.P. and many more. Black Lives Matter.
I was seven or eight when I became aware that other people distinguished between races. I was at the state fair in Texas, and my brother and I were playing on a patch of grass across from one of the game stands, where you shot water in the clown’s mouth until the balloon popped. Two Black kids were walking by, and they called me and my brother honkies.
I didn’t know what it meant, and I was already cowered by abuse from a stepfather so I wasn’t a confrontational person. The two kids kept walking and my brother and I kept playing.
Later, at my grandparent’s house, I asked my Paw-Paw, “What’s a honky?” And told him where I heard it. As he explained it to me, he also gave me a virtue that I value to this day: “Don’t ever say the ‘N’ word or hate someone because they are different.”
I was very fortunate to come from a family that at least was not racist. I had a dysfunctional, even abusive childhood, and I wasn’t taught many virtuous morals, but this sentiment is one I cherish.
Everyone is protesting, demanding justice and asking for laws to be changed. I agree there needs to be a change, but I believe that it starts with the thoughts of our hearts. It’s the sentiment that needs to change.
How do you change a man’s sentiment? That’s the key.
I came to prison in the early 1990s. The unspoken sentiment was to stick with your own race. I was deaf to that sentiment. I have a son with a Black woman and to side against the Black race would be akin to siding against my son.
I never hung out with the group of people who thought that way. I have had friends of all races in here. It doesn’t make sense to be any other way.
There are good and bad people in every race, and it’s not logical to hate everyone because of one or two.
I can relate because the abuse I suffered made me insecure, and I’m familiar, real familiar, with rejection. But don’t mistake me. I’m not saying, “I know what it’s like.”
No, I only say “I hear you, I see you.”
And it’s up to all of us to change the sentiment.
Black Lives Matter.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.