78-Year-Old Racist Reveals Why he Trying to Change

A woman stands in the doorway of the Historic Colored Entrance at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 7, 2016. (Brynn Anderson / AP)
A woman stands in the doorway of the Historic Colored Entrance at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 7, 2016. (Brynn Anderson / AP)

I grew up in a household in which disparaging remarks about African-Americans were not made. The N-word was never uttered in my home. But the world around me, decades ago, had a different agenda that polluted my thought processes.

In my early teens we moved to a suburb north of Chicago where discrimination was common. “Colored people” were invariably cleaning women having finished a hard day’s labor in the homes of some affluent white families. They would stand with shopping bags waiting for buses that would be just the beginning of the long journey back to the South Side of Chicago — “where they belonged.”

In subsequent years, while in an Illinois college, I recall only two African-Americans — one who played on the basketball team and a young woman studying to be a teacher. Blacks in college seemed an enigma.

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To this day I have to ward off faulty thoughts, such as whether a black U.S. Supreme Court justice could be as qualified as his peers or if a black financial manager would be capable of managing my assets.

My wife once needed an orthopedic surgeon. We looked for someone with lofty medical credentials and an auspicious track record. The physician who fit the bill turned out to be an African-American man. Could we really entrust my wife’s physical well-being to this individual?

Although I can easily intellectualize that one’s skin color is no more relevant to the human condition than the color of their eyes, societal brainwashing lingers.

A young man whom I mentor, who is African-American and as close to me as a son, has opened my eyes to the distorted view that persists about African-Americans.

This professional man is sometimes stopped when driving his upscale car because of racial profiling. He acknowledges that he is careful to be respectful when dealing with policemen or other authority figures because his parents taught him that being compliant is preferable to being dead.

He has educated me about how black people are still portrayed in our society. Sadly, some things have not changed.

Although I have always thought of myself as a liberal, I now realize the lasting effects on me of movies, newspaper reports, TV and books that didn’t acknowledge contributions to society made by African-Americans. History was white. And despite my “open-mindedness” I realized that I, too, harbor irrational thoughts when it comes to African-Americans.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Mel Novit lives in Morton Grove.

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