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Old White Me

History shows the priviledge of Whites? Looks like I’ve been born into the role. Values, prejudices, and mindsets are established early in life.What can I do about what label I might be given by what may be called “the other side”? I don’t like the labels.

There is conflict that I don’t want.So here I am, a product of post World War II, as one of those "baby boomers" who was indoctrinated with the mindset that"white is superior". It happened in the perfect white home in a nice white neighborhood, watching Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver, and Father Knows Best. It is what it is.

I remember Black vs. White and the near riots in my beloved Muncie Central High School. I enjoyed diversity even then, sitting in a classroom of wonderful people of color, as I look back on it. I didn’t understand the issues as a teen. I was all about LOVE and PEACE promoted by the hippie movement.I heard about issues in the South and was intrigued by Martin Luther King. In my mind, it was so far away and unreachable. My focus was studying my Latin and aiming for Honor Society and having fun with my friends.

I went back through my roots to discover my racial identity... 11 grandfather’s ago, to Ireland and Germany, on both sides. These are the colonists who worked their way from the eastern states eventually to settle in Indiana. There was much hardship and much determination. Part of this was acquiring land where Indians had settled.

In my Racism and Diversity Class, the professor asked me, “How do you see the effects of Racism in the study of your own genealogy and your upbringing?” I started thinking about my grandparents in the 50’s when I was growing up and their attitudes toward the black race. They emphasized “separate”. I was told not to date across racial lines. I also recently realized that when Ku Klux Klan was ravaging Muncie back in the 20s, at least one of my relatives was involved, along with a large percentage of Muncie.“No no no.” I cringed. I thought about the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic message that was part of political power and in the pressure of the business world. There were 250,000 Hoosiers involved in it, making Indiana the place of savagery.

As I described my upbringing to the class which had a majority of Blacks, I felt bad. But I was honest and forthright, if that is worth anything. I want to be an open book. I want to grow and change. I thought things had changed, but perhaps not.

There is always going to be an underdog and a pecking order in any group or community. It is not just race. It is gender. It is old and young. It is the rich and the poor. It is the fat and the skinny. It is the Republicans and the Democrats. It is those who are disabled and those who are able-bodied. And then there is religion, which is one of the most divisive. So many conflicts!

Whenever there is a perceived prejudice, there is an uprising, sometimes small and sometimes big. As Americans, we try to say things right, and we are generally careful not to offend, but the underlying human trait of “wanting to be the privileged” and “the most talented”. In every segment of society attitudes of entitlement arise, no matter what the label is.

What is love? How do we cross lines of prejudice? I am not sure, but that is what I want.