I write to you with a burdened heart. I learned today that one of my favorite childhood authors, G.A. Henty, was racist. I grew up reading, loving, and re-reading his many tales of historical adventure. I was not even remotely aware that I was being fed handpicked racist beliefs through these stories.
I did not recognize these undertones when I was growing up. How could I have seen them when I was taught almost nothing of racism? I remember reading stories of the Underground Railroad and hearing famous quotes such as, “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King. But I never knew that racism still existed into today’s society and everyday life. That racism is normal and acceptable.
I do not believe that my family believes itself to be racist. Contrary to that fact, they would, I am sure, argue vehemently against it. But the history I was taught (and the history they were taught in the generations before me), and the comments made, were many times racist in nature.
The comments about how our neighborhood and school district was becoming much worse due to the people moving in (predominantly African-American). The negative connotation that the policemen/policewomen hired at the library during school day afternoons were there because of the influx of ‘rowdy’ students (always African-American). The feelings of fear whenever walking by a man of color. The assumption that if a POC (person of color) was hanging around outside, he or she was out to get your money or ask you for a handout. The comments assuming that POC are more likely to be criminals, drug dealers, or homeless. The comments that said that the root issue was broken families, never considering that it might only be a symptom of a racialized society. I could go on, but I’ll stop. You get the idea.
This is what I grew up with. It was very subtle; it was hidden under the surface. And that is why it was so dangerous. The people saying these things, the ones who pass these beliefs on, are unaware of their ignorance. The majority are not trying to be racist or perpetrate false ideas. But they are nonetheless.
And this -needs- to stop. We need to wake up and see what is going on around us. To see the injustices in our communities – abuse, racism, slavery, homelessness, and so much more.