Events that Changed Me Part 2

Looking Past Differences
Many that have known me over the years will tell you that I am one of the least prejudiced people they know. I know that sounds pretty bold coming from me without others being able to verify that statement. But the truth is that I will tell you that everyone is prejudiced in some form towards others in some form. I don’t care how many of you say I am wrong, but the fact is that you will from time to time make choices based on the appearance of another person.

So, what exactly is the true definition of the word prejudice? Per
Prejudice – noun
1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.
3. unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.
4. such attitudes are considered collectively: The war against prejudice is never-ending.
5. damage or injury; detriment: a law that operated against the prejudice of the majority.
So as such, do you find yourself in one or more of the definitions? I know I have found myself in it from time to time. Does that mean I am a racist or bigot? No. Do you mean you are? No. It all depends on if you allow those opinions to run your life. Plus, in some cases, it is also a means of self-protection.

Before I go further here, I must address what I mean by the self-protection statement. This is a simple issue. For example, regardless of your race, I doubt many would walk down the bad area of your town in the middle of the night for fear of being mugged. Does that mean you are prejudiced toward the people that live in the area? No. What would make you racist is if you made judgments on all the people that lived there. That is because they lived in such a bad neighborhood that they must all be scum. The fact is that many people that live in those locations are in many cases just as scared to go out at night in their neighborhood as you are.

So, does it make you prejudiced to disagree with someone’s way of life? No. As a Christian, I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that if they don’t repent and stop sinning, they may not go to heaven. As such I will not be one of those people that condone that way of life or attend a gay wedding, I will not treat a gay person as a bad person. The reason I won’t is simple, I am a sinner also and can only hope that I can repent and stop sinning also. I will never treat my gay friends or their partners poorly, but as a friend. I will also urge anyone who claims to be a Christian to review what the Bible says about judging others and how Jesus told us that we must be like him.

So, in the next couple of sections, I will address how I came to this opinion of prejudices.

So, while I was in the Navy, I had a few situations that showed me how stupid racism is. It also showed me how stupid even my few issues of it were wrong. No, I was not racist before but had a few stupid misconceptions that a young small-town kid had to learn.

So, the first thing that learned was how stupid racist people are. The first was when I was in boot camp and a few of my shipmates started making jokes about the number of black shipmates that could not swim. They made dumb statements that reduced my black shipmates to being afraid of water, so they didn’t bathe themselves, and that caused them to be black. They did this while there were also a few white shipmates that couldn’t pass the swimming test. It was the start of showing me how truly stupid people that were prejudiced could be.

The next was when I had to take training to obtain a license to drive the Humvees while I was stationed in Camp Lejeune. I ended up being in the back of one of the vehicles with a bunch of racists talking crap about one of the black Sargent that was training us. They then turned their BS toward why they were racist. In one Marine’s case, he stated that he hated blacks because of his brother getting beat up by a group of black in high school. While I have no idea why his brother got beat, I am pretty sure that it was because of his brother’s racism. However, even if it wasn’t, this Marine’s reasoning is BS. His reason for hating blacks was because a handful of possible bad seeds did something wrong and the whole race was the problem.

This thinking is a problem for many people. I at one point could have had the same mindless thinking too. When I was stationed in Portsmouth, VA at Portsmouth Naval Hospital I was mugged by a black guy. I could have easily blamed the whole race of people for this one bad seed. However, with God’s grace, I was shown that this one person was the issue and not the race by the way the events of my mugging happened. In many ways, it was my introduction to just how a small country boy needed to learn how a city works.

In my situation, I had a car that broke down right across the street from the local projects. This black guy and a white guy started to help me push my car over a bridge until a police car came by and used their car. In the process, the white guy seemed to be in a rush to leave and almost ran away. He knew where we were and how the neighborhood was once the sun went down. After the police pushed my car over the bridge they just sped away. Guess checking on me and if I needed help was not part of their job. So that just left me and the black guy.

At first, I had no problems with the guy. He asked me if I would need help and that he knew someone in the projects that could help me, as long as I was willing to pay him also. I said that would be great and we walked over to the projects to the apartment of a nice black woman that looked me up and down like I was crazy. So the guy asked her if she could help us with a ride to get what he promised.

So we drove to a different street and the guy got out to find his friend that could help.
At this point, the woman asked me how I knew the guy. I told her that he was just helping me out since I broke down. She then scolded me and asked if I knew that we were in the projects and that this guy was not good news. She then offered to take me to her mechanics’ shop to see if they could help. I’m not sure what she told me, but the mechanic and his assistant both scolded me with their looks. Before you wonder, they were both black men.

So they meet us at my car where I left it and started to figure out what was wrong with my car. A few times the assistant and I had to go to the auto shop for parts. During that time the guy that ended up mugging me came back to the car. While I was away getting parts he would talk crap about me to the mechanic and later to the assistant also. I know this because both men told me what he was saying. However, that didn’t help when the car was running, I paid them, and then they left me.

So this is where I learned just how different people can be. The mugger, I will just start to call him that, jumped into my car and started to demand me to drive him home and then pay him for his troubles. Yes, looking back I can say that I was overly naive and was only expecting to drive him home and then give him a couple of twenties. Nope, that wasn’t what happened. Instead, once we were in his neighborhood he grabbed my keys and demanded everything I had. He then alerted me to the fact I was not anywhere near a person I could trust or call on. Sure I could have tried to fight back, but I was on his turf and pretty much at his mercy.

After some time had passed and I tried to figure out a way around giving him all my money, I just give up. I handed him the money and drove off. I was scared and confused as to how I could have placed myself in the situation. But I never did think that all blacks were like him. No, the woman and the mechanics were pretty examples of that. They each lived and worked in the same neighborhood as the mugger but helped me. The mechanics really could have charged me a much higher rate than they did, but instead made a house call for less than their normal rate.

Today, I look back at that day and thank those that helped me. I also look back and pray that the mugger found God and changed his ways. That he moved away from his views and found a better life. I also have come to terms with that because I was so embarrassed by the situation I also exaggerated the story a little back then and told people I was mugged at knifepoint. The fact is that I was mugged with strength and street knowledge. By the way, I never filed a police report on this guy. Partly because I didn’t know where to tell the police to go and partly because of my embarrassment.

What Really Matters
When did I truly realize that I had things to change in my own life? That would be when I was stationed in Camp Lejeune and the birth of a shipments baby. While this may surprise you, I used to have an issue with some interracial marriages. Why that should surprise you because my mother is white and my father is Mexican, yet I had an issue with a black-and-white marriage. As I said, we are all prejudiced in some light, but the important part is to see it and change it.

So my shipmate and his wife were going to have a baby. He is black and she is white. Both were good people and both were in the Navy. I will say that I never really liked him because he was a little lazy at work. Either way, a few days after they had their baby they stopped by to show off their new son. Once I saw this cute little boy with a full head of curly red hair I realized how stupid I was. At that moment I saw what mattered in life. That was when I knew God placed us here to love and live together regardless of our race.

Working in Healthcare
As I have mentioned previously in the first installment of this series, I was a Hospital Corpsman while I was enlisted. During that time I was stationed in Portsmouth Naval Hospital in two different hospital wards. In each, I had several different patients from various walks of life and nationalities. As such some of my patients had many different views of the world and different faiths. And contrary to many peoples thinking, back in the ’80s and ’90s the US military did have homosexuals in them. But this is not the post to debate the political views of homosexuals in the service.

So, as you may be thinking, yes I did have a few gay patients on the hospital ward from time to time. In most cases, you wouldn’t know this because of the policies of the time. However, I can tell you that we had one that was a regular patient in the ward due to his AIDS infection. This infection showed me just how bad this disease was and how brutal it destroyed a person’s body. It also was where I saw that if we were to be true children of God we had to help and love these people just the same as any other person. That doesn’t mean I believe homosexuality is OK, just like I don’t believe adultery is OK. The fact is both are sins.

What I saw this man go through showed me how to care for the person before anything else. When he had first started to come to the ward he looked and acted rather healthy. He would come in and have certain treatments done for about a week or so. His partner would be there each day he was there. In the year and a half that I was assigned to this ward, I watched him slowly and painfully waste away. His demeanor started to become sadder and sadder, yet he seemed to try to be positive. You could see the stress and pain on both his and his partner’s faces. Towards the end of the disease, he ended up in the ward as a full-time patient. His body became a skeleton and he lost his strength to the point he slept most of the time. He had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order placed so that when he died no one would start CPR on him. Before he died his body had become atrophied and in a fetal position.

During that time the only person I ever saw visit him was his partner. No family at any time seemed to stop by and visit him. I was not on the floor the day he died. But I know he didn’t die alone. The one person that loved him was there by his side. His death also showed several young men and women on that ward that the important part of life is to love others even when they don’t hold the same values as yourself.

The point is that this patient showed me that even if someone has a different view or way of life, we must show them God’s love. We don’t know their backstories, how life or others have treated them. What we can do is show them that someone cares for them. Just imagine if you were on your deathbed and had no one there to give you any form of comfort. You are alone, scared, and knowing your time on earth was expiring soon. Then imagine having at least one person that appears to care enough to be there. Could be a perfect stranger that just happened to be working that day.

The bottom line is that prejudice of any form can be overcome and should be. That we all need to realize that our differences are so small when you compare them to what is real in the world. Sadly, I sometimes see people care more about a deer that gets hit by a car than their next-door neighbor. That is what needs to change.

Author: littleslices

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