What a wonderful piece! All of your points were so simply but so truthful. I have always been open minded, but I also can agree that I have listened to ignorant stereotypes that turned out to be completely wrong, and so were one of the people I actually pegged correctly in my stereotyping.

I can remember once I took a welding course and a lot of the White men in the class looked like mountain men with the long grey beards, mean looking. Turns out they were some of the nicest guys. We got to know each other, broke bread together and by the end of the class we knew we’d made in roads on race relations in our small circles. One of the guys was an actual white supremacist (tattoo and all). Me and a couple of other Black women in the class quietly called him out on it. He admitted he had racist views against Blacks — but also told me about how he was picked on in school because he was a little awkward (socially and physically). Blacks picked, apparently pretty badly.

He was fairly young, and a very attractive young man — just a little immature (he was an only child with rich parents). They lived in a lake home and his father worked for a huge company which had relocated him to Mexico. He came home sometimes, but the young guy in the class basically lived there alone.

We all got pretty close, and we would go to his home to fish and hangout, and we had lots of talks. We found we had more things in common than any of our differences. At the end of the class we were all sad, but we stayed in touch for a while. The guy eventually moved a way and we lost touch. He a lost soul who was pretty sheltered and had few friends. My ability to see the human underneath the skin allowed us to connect in a very intimate way. I hope our time together changed his perspective of Black people. He certainly changed mines on White supremacists. There is usually something driving that hate — and it’s usually self-hate. In any event, you did a great job describing how valuable having relationships with different people can be in our growth and self-development.

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