[O'Keefe] Giving Up Prejudices | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[O'Keefe] Giving Up Prejudices

While waiting for a high-school football game to begin, a group of fans from the community gathered at the park across the street. From a distance, I could see a large truck, displaying two Confederate flags with oddly shaped crosses in the center, slowly approach. The truck came to a halt by the park, where a number of white teenagers jump out of the bed of the pickup. They approached a young black boy and began to taunt him, calling him names and touting white supremacist rhetoric.

I inched closer to the scene, where it became obvious to me that the teens were affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. I noticed many people standing nearby with gaping mouths, but no one budged to stop the kids. Finally, I, followed by a few others, began to yell at the boys to stop. As they became violent, more people approached to break things up, and the boys eventually ran away.

Moving from Philadelphia, Pa., to Monroe, La., at a young age, I was ignorant about the racial barriers of the South. This incident was my first encounter with blatant racism. The boys could not have been older then 16, and as a 13-year-old student, the episode was eye opening.

After that event, I viewed members of hate groups as monsters, not people. Ironically, I began to hate the hate groups. I didn't want to give these individuals the time to spread their highly offensive message. I felt ashamed to share the same race as them.

During my teenage years, I adopted the stance that because hate groups cannot respect diversity, I would certainly not respect them. I didn't care about what life experience had caused them to become prejudiced. All I cared about was that they were disrespecting the feelings and rights of innocent people, and so it was my right to show contempt toward them in return.

I became interested in Jackson's music scene a few years ago, and frequently traveled here to see bands play. I am particularly drawn to the area's punk and hard-core shows, and over the years I've noticed a group of guys that always attend the shows. I became acquaintances with a few of them, but I later found out that they were skinheads. The idea of my friends being racially prejudiced was perplexing: They seemed like normal teenage boys. The discovery, however, didn't affect our friendship; I treated them as I would with any other friend, but when one of them would make a racist remark, I would whip back a defense.

This continued for about a year, and although I vehemently disagreed with mindset, I still hung out with them at shows. This was my first realization that everyone is an individual, no matter what his or her skewed social views are.

I refused to allow myself to become especially close to them because I never want to directly associate myself with racism. As time went by, I started noticing a change in some of the members of the group. They stopped wearing "SS" T-shirts, grew out their hair a little and didn't spew hateful words at shows. A friend told me that a few of the guys had even given up their prejudices, and wanted to start over.

If I had kept my non-accepting views of prejudiced groups, I would have missed the chance to help change a few friends' lives. I now see that people have something inside of them—people or events—that have instilled hate within them. Just as the incident in the park influenced my view of these groups, many racists or bigots have life-altering events in their past. If we ignore hate groups, if we pretend they don't live next door or work alongside us, we cannot help bring about change.

I am not advocating that we show compassion to hate groups, but I will quote Henry David Thoreau: "It's never too late to give up our prejudices."

Previous Comments

ID
148959
Comment

Americans in general and Mississippians specifically have unacceptable standards when it comes to race. Things that are expected and acceptable for one race are not expected or sought after for others. Overt racism and discrimination have surely gotten better across the country. However, for the life of me, I can not understand why some blatantly obvious things are so acceptable to the masses. The Confederate flag as a symbol for any state should be gone without question. No way on earth Caucasions would accept a similar simple that was derogatory toward them. Also, racists of any color or belief should not be honored publicly. Ross Barnett was openly racist and opposed basic civil rights for African Americans, yet his is honored all across the state. Any intellectually honest person knows that a black guy that had said the things about whites that Barnett said about blacks would not be honored with anything. And rightfully so. MLK Day/Confederate Memorial Day is a blatant slap in the face. There is a difference in acknowledging history and reveling in being on the wrong side of history. It is very hard for a minority to justify honoring individuals or a system that sought to treat minorities as inferior. A lot of things that people want to claim are history are still issues because people are holding on to them. We can not get over predjudices and racism if we continue to honor it in our actions.

Author
Goldenae
Date
2009-06-24T17:35:02-06:00
ID
148961
Comment

Someone didn't read the article.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-06-24T17:40:59-06:00
ID
148962
Comment

Ironghost, That is my perspective on giving up predjudices, it you take issue with that perspective, be specific. Unless there are other comments I can not see, I would have to assume you were referring to my comment. Your response seems "talk-radio"ish of disagreeing with whatever is said when you do not like the subject.

Author
Goldenae
Date
2009-06-24T17:51:22-06:00
ID
148964
Comment

I think the point is the author finds it easier to engage people and not consider them enemies. Hate never did anyone good. I'm all for putting the past to rest, and making a better future.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-06-24T19:27:10-06:00
ID
148966
Comment

Iron, you are correct. That is my point of the article. Hating the hate groups doesn't have any benefits. I felt the same as most people, as I mentioned in the article.

Author
....
Date
2009-06-24T19:54:35-06:00
ID
148968
Comment

Sorry, wrong account.

Author
JonOKeefe
Date
2009-06-24T20:37:19-06:00

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