Proximity & intentional relating can help heal a racist viewpoint.
I studied chemical engineering. Yes, I am a nerd. Yes, I love math, science, physics, and my highest grades were in math. I even took more math classes than needed. I digress. My first roommate at college had never seen a “colored” person before. She assumed because we chatted on the phone that I was white (it is a false stereotype that all people of color use broken English). Her mom thought I was the first person from my family to go to college and I was a charity case. My mother corrected her and let her know she had 5 college degrees. That was an awkward moment. The mother believed a stereotype that all people of color are charity cases, unlearned/uneducated.
My roommate’s prejudice was amplified over the first few months. She would say things that were racist and be corrected. She tried to boss me around like I was her live in servant, this too was not tolerated. It was taxing to keep educating her on how to treat people. It was also challenging for her to unlearn all the garbage she had learned about non white people.
One of her biggest fears was I would steal from her. Another stereotype is people of color are poor or steal. I told her I was not poor, did not want her stuff.
Over time her views began to shift some. She stopped acting like I wanted to steal from her. She did say, “You are okay, I just do not want any of ‘those people,’ alone with my stuff.” She was referring to my black and hispanic friends. Many of them had more money than she did. She was corrected.
What I learned from Jane (not her real name) is that it is easy to be ignorant in a bubble. If you have no real connections with people not like you, it’s easy to believe the lies of the media and culturally passed down stereotypes. If anyone should have been afraid in that situation, it should have been me. Historically racists have killed and persecuted more people of color than the reverse. A recent story popped up of a black woman poisoned by her white roommate.
I have encouraged my Bible study to GO connect with people not like you. Try to get to know them. Listen to their stories. Learn about their culture. Read. Study. Learn. Reach out. Listen to understand, not debate.
Did Jane walk away with less prejudice? I think so. I also noted there were ideas of superiority that she refused to let go. We parted ways unamicably. Instead of being able to just focus on study I was teaching my roommate how not to be racist. ChemE is challenging even if you love math, chemistry, etc…I spent a portion of my freshman year dealing with racism and bringing truth to stereotypes.
It changed me a bit. I grew up in a family where everyone was welcome and we did not do the racial stuff. I had experienced racism when we moved to another city and when my mom enrolled me in a school for the gifted. I hated that school. There was plenty of racism at that school. Yet now I was living with someone who had been raised in an environment of racism, bigotry, and white superiority. I learned racism is taught. It can be unlearned.
Though Jane and her parents may have thought she (they) were superior based on race, Jane flunked a year and I am not sure if she graduated.
Ethnic background has nothing to do with value, worth, intellect. We all were created in the image of God and have divine potential.
My encouragement is get to know people and understand every person in the man made groups is not identical. I cannot speak for every person who looks like me. Nor can you. People are people. We all come with our own stories, experiences, etc…invest some time in getting to know people.
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