Racism and Slavery (2)

After graduating from college, I enlisted in the army to go to language school to learn Chinese. A natural linguist, I had already taught myself French and Italian, studied Latin in high school, and taken German in college. Chinese fascinated me. But the army, in its wisdom, chose to teach me not Chinese but Vietnamese, a language I had never heard of. That choice shaped my life.

In the army and later as a National Security Agency (NSA) civilian in Vietnam, I worked as an equal with men of all races and backgrounds. I learned teamwork and the value of work partners. I came to understand that my Irish-English heritage made me different from but no better than anybody else. What counted was not race but ability and willingness to work hard.

Somehow along the way, I did manage to become inculcated with unconscious bias. Throughout my life, I was never aware that I was prejudiced until this year when racial bias became the focus of national attention. I was shocked to discover within myself hidden assumptions about blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. These people, I unconsciously imagined, were unlikely to be as intelligent or well-educated as I am. I made no such assumptions about whites. It turned out that my parents had achieved their goal of planting prejudice in my soul.

Fortunately, a bias discovered is a bias disarmed. I’m now able at the conscious level to root out false assumptions. It will take some work, but I’ll do it.

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