Recent events in the U.S. have awakened me to the degree that racism is alive and well in our country. And they have caused me to reflect on the evil of slavery.
Until the death of George Floyd, I hadn’t realized that deaths at the hands of police are several times more likely for blacks than for whites. Research by the press in the days that followed gave ample evidence that racial prejudice is rampant in the U.S. I even discovered racial bias in myself.
The roots of my problem were in how I was raised. My mother was a southern belle born to enjoy mint juleps on the veranda while the darkies worked in the cotton fields. My father was an Irish lawyer who hated blacks, Jews, Asians, and Hispanics. They worked hard to teach me to hate, but I rebelled early. By the time I was six, I was regularly left on my own while my parents were out carousing. My father went to prison for embezzlement before I was twelve, and my mother continued to drink to excess. While my father was in jail, my mother and I lived in the slums of Oakland, California. My playmates on the streets were of every race and color. I couldn’t see that they were different from me.
In short, before I was six years old, I knew I was on my own. That meant, among other things, choosing values for living that were at odds with those of my parents.
When college time came, I enrolled in the University of California in Berkeley, a bus trip away from Oakland. I worked part-time to support myself. In my classes and to a greater degree in my work life, I was surrounded by people of every racial background and nationality. I spotted cultural differences between me and others. Those differences made us diverse but not unequal.