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Nine years ago, I began to slowly awaken to my racial prejudices and white privilege. It was a rude awakening. During the past three years, I’ve blogged about that journey from racial ignorance. Recently, someone asked me what have been the biggest surprises along the way. What do I know now that I didn’t know before? What follows is a short list of some of my bigger epiphanies and the posts where I shared these revelations.

I didn’t know that for a short period after the Civil War black people made significant progress in political and economic terms. I didn’t know we had black US Senators and Representatives, that many southern states had black legislatures, that black literacy rates skyrocketed and blacks make significant economic gains. I didn’t know about the reign of terror necessary for whites to end this moment of possibility, murdering thousands of black men, women and children. A Splendid Failure.I didn’t know lynching is a term that covers a whole range of violent acts, usually beginning with cutting off the victim’s ears, nose and sexual parts, burning of body parts or the entire person, hanging the body, dragging the body through the streets, and usually depositing the mutilated corpse in the middle of a black neighborhood. I didn’t know this often happened in a picnic atmosphere, with white children encouraged to watch. I didn’t know that in the hundred years after 1865 a lynching took place once a week somewhere in America. Avoiding the L Word.

I didn’t know very few enslaved persons lived on plantations like those glorified in white literature and media. Most enslaved persons lived and worked in conditions more like those practiced by the Nazis in their work camps, where the goal was to squeeze the most labor possible out of a person before their death. Enslaved adults seldom lived past the age of thirty. I didn’t know slavery in the..............


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I learned late in my life that my stepdad was a terrible bigot who objected to my cousin being married to an Indian woman. He meant that she had Native American blood but he was not sure of his own heritage because his father was adopted long ago. It was in part because of my stepdad that I simply announced what I was doing when I went to Kenya in 2004 and married a black woman. He remained civil to us and that marriage lasted 12 years.

Despite this I remember being a child in Kansas when we were visiting another family and there was loud knocking on the door. My stepdad and the man of that household opened the door to find a desperate black man who was shot and bleeding. He fell into the house as they opened the door and together they saved his life and immediately called the police. It turns out that the man's wife had emptied a gun on him in a dispute and thanks to my stepdad and his friend the man lived. My mother did not want me to watch all the events of that night but I pulled away from her and watched anyway.

Racism is an ugly beast that has many twists and turns. Strange that many can remain ignorantly racist and even do good deeds. Just as many would kill through hatred.




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