A viral Reddit thread features a series of reassuring responses from self-professed reformed racists or people who saw such a change in someone close to them.
2020 was a year of racial reckoning for America. The COVID-19 pandemic hitting Black, Latinx, and Native American communities the hardest, a steep rise in racist attacks against Asians in the US, George Floyd's death at the hands of a police officer, and a series of incidents where Black people were put in harm's way while doing normal activities such as jogging, bird-watching, or calling 911, all forced America to confront its racism. The year saw many moments when we tried to understand why racists are the way they are and despaired whether the country would indeed learn from its mistakes and move towards a better future for everyone.
If 2020 was one thing, it was the year that America confronted racism. Here's a look back at the moments— Nicole Chavez (@NicoleChavz) January 1, 2021
in politics, policing and culture that defined this extraordinary year and in some cases moved the needle toward change. https://t.co/zpvz3LB2wl
A Reddit thread that went viral on the platform provides some hope in this matter as it gives insight into the minds of former racists. "Ex-Racist people of Reddit, What changed your views?" asked u/Aura0, and what followed was a series of reassuring responses from self-professed reformed racists or people who saw such a change in someone close to them. If anything, this thread serves as an important reminder that change is possible.
Here are 15 of the most powerful answers:
"Brother was racist. We both love science fiction. One time he was talking about all the cool races in the 'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' and 'Mass Effect' universes. How creative Lucas and Roddenberry were. He talked about how great it would be to be among those races as a human and acquaint yourself with alien cultures and people and mythology. I said, 'You can't even mingle with the other races on your home planet.'
Maybe it was the weed, but what I said had some effect on him. He's very noticeably more 'tolerant' and curious about other peoples now. I think he realized that his previous philosophies were not in line with those of The Federation. Good for him." — darkisright
"From birth I was raised to be racist in a racist household (VA). I was ignorant. I used the N-word, antisemitic, homophobic, racist language everyday. My immediate family and extended family all share the same ignorance. At family gatherings if one of my older cousins let slip they were dating someone new, the first question would be 'Is s/he White?' Followed by laughter, but the question was serious.
Then I started middle school. 6th grade. On the first day of class I set down my backpack against the classroom wall (like every other student) while we found our desks and had a small Meet & Greet [with] new classmates. I made sure to only speak to the kids (White) whom I knew from elementary school. Our teacher told us to take our seats. I'm 42 years old and I remember this like it was yesterday. I picked up my backpack, found my desk, before I could open my bag the girl behind me told me she liked my earrings, her mom wouldn't let her get her ears pierced until high school. Then I heard another voice from further behind me say, 'Ms. Kay, this isn't my backpack.' The backpack sitting on this girl's desk was identical to the one sitting next to my desk. We both opened our backpacks and realized we'd grabbed the wrong bag.
Internally I rolled my eyes in disgust, this girl was a 'N.' But I was taught to never let it show. So we met each other to quickly exchange. Her smile was beautiful. She wore glasses the same shape as mine. She wore her hair in a pony tail, just like mine. In our back to school shopping we picked the exact same backpack and we picked the exact same Nikes (pink/white). Her name was Jacinda. I found myself genuinely smiling back to her, and giggling like young girls do. That day she asked to sit together during lunch, and we sat beside each other for lunch every single day of middle school. She was my very first best friend. Jacinda taught me about her Sunday School classes (my family never attended church), we talked about everything important in the life of middle school girls. She wasn't allowed to attend my birthday parties, and I wasn't allowed to go to hers, but we always celebrated together at school. I loved her so much. When it was time to go to high school I continued in public school and her parents chose to homeschool her. I thought homeschooling was the coolest idea. Jacinda was (is) brilliantly intelligent. God, she was going to do great things for this world. Long before the age of social media, we lost touch sadly - but I still think of her often. After meeting Jacinda I never used another racist or derogatory word. Meeting Jacinda changed my life for the better." — OBXF4N24
"The Army forced me to live with black people. Turns out I didn't hate anyone, I was just afraid of what I didn't understand and had some very stupid notions passed on to me from my dad and his friends.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to understand a greater sample of people than my tiny home town afforded me." — dmdewd
"My dad would make disparaging remarks about Black people, Mexicans, Chinese people, etc. when I was a kid. I remember repeating those same sentiments and no one ever corrected me. In first grade, we were all assigned pen pals from a school in another city and mine was a Black girl named Chardonnay. I thought she had a weird name and I was disappointed when I found out she wasn't White.
Very soon after that, we learned some very basic info about the civil rights movement during Black history month. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, separate water fountains, segregated schools, stuff like that. After that, I felt really bad about being racist and wanting a different pen pal, and really ashamed of my dad and grandparents for thinking that way. And I was so mad that they'd taught me to think that way. After that, I was really happy to have the opportunity to write to my pen pal and get to know her better. I'm so thankful that my school started teaching us about racism early on. It's scary to think how I could have ended up if those sentiments had gone unchecked." — H0lyThr0wawayBatman
"I didn't realize I was racist and being raised in a racist household until 4th grade. I was in a group project having to give a presentation to the class. my group was me and two Black girls.
My parents HATED Black women. Black people in general but especially Black women (as they both watch tennis you can guess all the sh*t they said about the Williams sisters). Meanwhile, there I was standing there watching my group mates talk. They were just as good, if not better than me, at talking in the class. Or understanding the material. Or anything really. I can still see that moment where the class fades away in my mind and a one of my group mates is talking to the class where I realize a fundamental truth: 'My parents were wrong.'
It still makes me sad thinking about stuff I remember saying as a kid -- regurgitating things I heard my parents or relatives say. But in my experience, as I have gotten older, is that the #1 way to combat racism is to bring people into the same room. When people have shared experiences that sense of otherness fades away.
Of course, in 2021 and the internet being what it is, it's really easy for people to hide in their own corners of the internet. But I'm thankful for that experience in 4th grade. I got in trouble a lot over the years for getting mad when family would throw around the N-word or lock their doors when they saw Black people. But I knew I was right. And in the decades that have passed, nothing has tarnished or taken away that childhood lesson."—asher1611
"Man I don't even know where to start with this one. I grew up in the middle of fu**ing nowhere Mississippi where the slave trade was referred to as the great African migration in our history books. Every person of color was referred to by the N-word as just the default. It wasn't until I moved the fu** out of the South that I begin to comprehend what racism was. I wish I could say I had a moment of clarity that washed away all the racist bull**it that I'd grown up with but it was more like a couple decades worth of mental deprogramming I had to fight against. There was so much underlying hate of different people that warped how my view of the world was." — TheOneTrueE
"Left the church and my conservative family. Started examining myself closely.
The really tricky thing about being a racist is that you never think you're a racist at the time. In the moment you feel like you're just 'quoting statistics' or 'calling it how it is,' etc.
It takes a lot of work to actually stop, look at yourself, and then dig that ugly racist worm out of your heart." — Luckboy28