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Coexistence

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When I was young, racism was all around me. From the playgrounds at my elementary school to the stoop of the house I grew up in, I was plagued by it.

My step-father, at the time, never hesitated at slinging racial slurs around like a rich talk show host throwing free gifts to a crowd. Any time I told my parents I had a girlfriend, he would always ask me, “Is she black?” as though there would be punishment if my answer was yes. My black friends were never invited to my birthday parties in fear of what he might say. This continued for quite some time.

I got to a point in my life where whenever I’d hear the racial slurs pour out of my stepdad’s mouth, I became furious with him. I’d never speak out, but on the inside I was enraged. To this day, I regret not speaking my mind.

I’ll admit I was torn sometimes. I was exposed much more to racism growing up than I was to assimilation. Naïve as I was, I began to latch on to the idea of racism being an okay thing. There would be days where someone of another ethnicity would do something that grinded my gears and I would start blaming their entire race, convincing myself that white people were superior over everyone else.

I never fully blamed my stepdad for being the way he was. I knew the reason for his ideology was because of the way he was raised. I, however, wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to me.

My biological father was the exact opposite of my stepdad. Being a cop and a former Soldier, he was a little more embedded in multicultural societies. He traveled plenty and met lots of people from different walks of life. I did not grow up with my biological father by my side, albeit I did look up to him and some of his qualities rubbed off on me.

Fortunately for me, I grew up in a metamorphic time period. Technology was advancing which meant worldwide news became easier and easier to obtain. In turn, discriminatory awareness was more prevalent. People started to become more accepting of things and this beautiful country became more accepting as well.

As time progressed, I began to realize that racism isn’t something natural. It’s something we’ve created as humans to control or influence each other. When people die and bodies decompose, the remains all look the same. Dark, I know. But the point is that we’re all human. No one asks to be black, Asian, white, Indian or Hispanic. We just are.

During my lifetime the U.S. would go on to select Colin Powell as the first African-American secretary of state; elect Barack Obama, a product of an interracial marriage, as the first African-American president; prevent states from banning same-sex marriage; and allow same-sex marriage and transgender individuals to be a part of the armed forces. However, the most impressive change to me in those years was seeing my stepdad sit down and have a beer with a black man. I know now that the reason for all the discrimination and segregation was due to a lack of education and manipulative parenting.

Racism may never completely disappear, but change is inevitable. There’s still hope that one day almost everyone will, at a minimum, find peaceful coexistence. Hell, if my stepdad can, anyone can.