Posted on April 28, 2024

Putting the Pieces Together on Race

Anonymous American, American Renaissance, April 29, 2024

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This is part of our continuing series of accounts by readers of how they shed the illusions of liberalism and became race realists.

Growing up white in relatively rural areas in the early 1980s, I didn’t encounter many black people. Most of what I knew about them came from movies and television where they seemed to be everywhere. Shows like Sanford and Son and Good Times had almost entirely black casts, while movies starred Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and sometimes Mr. T. Every sports team seemed to be predominantly black, and the biggest star in the world was Michael Jackson, who was still black at the time and was practically anywhere you looked. Blacks were presented as talented, hilarious, cool, and yet somehow mistreated. Television shows especially were filled with themes and messages about “racism” and how you shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover.”

My family was completely apolitical. They were uneducated, working-class people whose only advice about black people was “Don’t treat them any differently than anyone else.” It wasn’t a hard commandment to keep as I had virtually no interaction with them. We were poor but not so poor that we had to live in the ghetto. We moved around a bit in elementary school but usually to a rural area or white community. My classes at school typically had no more than one or two blacks at a time.

After changing schools three or four times, I noticed patterns in how black students behaved. They were typically louder and ruder than other students, more apt to cut in line or cause a disruption in class. They usually did poorly or weren’t interested in school work and were quick to throw punches and get into fights. Often when they got together with other black students it seemed to amplify their misbehavior. And they practically never apologized — it was like it was against their religion.

This was not at all what I was being told to expect from black people, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. Our paths didn’t cross much, and I just treated them like other kids.

One Friday in fourth grade, I brought some video games to trade with a friend of mine for the weekend. A black kid named Cornelius who sat near me saw what we were doing and practically begged to borrow one of my games. He had never had much to say to me before. He was a disruptive kid who would sometimes do something so outlandish the whole room would laugh as the teacher tried to calm him down. He would tell ridiculous, impossible lies about meeting famous wrestlers, but everyone seemed to like him anyway.

The game he wanted to borrow was one of my favorites and one I knew my mom had paid $50 for and had had a hard time getting a copy of in time for Christmas. I didn’t want to let him borrow the game because I had a feeling I might not get it back. Then I started thinking about how he might think I was a racist if I didn’t. I wondered if I was judging a book by its cover like the television often suggested. He promised he would bring it back on Monday, so I reluctantly let him take the game.

You can guess what happened Monday — he didn’t bring me the game. For the next few weeks he kept saying he forgot and that he would bring it tomorrow. He didn’t ride my bus or live near my neighborhood, so I couldn’t go to his house after school to confront him. And even if I could have, he had begun to take an attitude like I was bothering him by asking about it, so I would have been hesitant to make him angry outside of school in front of his own house. Finally, I had no other option except to explain to my mom what had happened.

She was upset and reminded me how hard she worked for the money to buy the game and how hard it was to find it right before Christmas. I’m not sure how she found out where Cornelius lived, but I rode with her to his house and watched as she knocked on the door and asked his mother for my game back. I felt ashamed that my mother had to do all this because of me.

She got back in the car and handed me the game cartridge. Cornelius had carved his initials and some doodles into the face of it with a knife. He never intended to give it back. He had marked it as his own. I rode back home staring at my game that was now defaced, embarrassed for my mom who was embarrassed at having to get my game back. But I was also embarrassed for not trusting my own intuition. I knew he was going to keep it, not because he was black, but because I could sense that he didn’t respect me at all. If anything, I wanted to impress him because he was black. I wanted to show him I wasn’t racist, that I didn’t judge books by covers, that I was “cool.” He saw it as an opportunity to get a free video game.

I remember being glad to get my game back, but it wasn’t the same after that. It still functioned, but I didn’t want to play it anymore. I had made my mom pay for it again in a way, and that had changed it somehow. Cornelius never acted like anything had happened and never spoke to me again as far as I remember. It might have been one of those childhood things that you forget happened, but I couldn’t forget with his initials carved into the game I used to love.

It’s tempting to say the lesson I learned was to “trust my gut,” but it was more than that. And it wasn’t as simple as “beware of blacks.” It was something complicated and hard to verbalize, especially for a kid. It was like realizing that everyone is participating in a kind of lie but no one was discussing it. It was realizing that the kind of universal aphorisms like “don’t judge a book by its cover” were being misused and misapplied to people for reasons my fourth-grade mind couldn’t fathom. People weren’t books. Books don’t have physical behaviors that announce who they are and what their intentions are. Books don’t try to use guilt tactics if you don’t want to interact with them. Books don’t attack you if you say the wrong thing. I didn’t know why adults weren’t discussing what I could see, but I knew it wasn’t my imagination.

I didn’t have the words for it, but I had a hundred or more little experiences that had linked up and had started to form an alternative viewpoint, one not based in fantasy television but from my own experience and intuition. As I grew, so did my perspective, like adding pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. I began to see that I wasn’t the only one to cultivate this viewpoint, but there were many others that had different pieces of a bigger puzzle. I’m grateful for such an early and benign experience to help awaken me to the realities of modern society. Many people have to learn a much harder way and sometimes pay with their lives because of it. I pray we can find a way to help our people awaken and overcome the dangerous challenges that face us before it is too late.

If you have a story about how you became racially aware, or about your firsthand experience with race, we’d like to hear it. If it is well written and compelling, we will publish it. Please feel free to use a pen name and send it to us here.