Former Racists Explain What Actually Made Them Change Their Views

Former Racists Explain What Actually Made Them Change Their Views
Image by mmi9 from Pixabay

When I was younger, I clearly remember how rude some of my white classmates were to my Muslim classmates following the September 11 attacks. That day in history, unfortunately, sparked a backlash at anyone who practiced Islam or looked remotely like they might be of Arab descent. It was a lot to take in as a child and I had to reconcile with some of my own prejudices before I could particularly understand them.

Redditor Aura0_0 was curious about how former racists reconciled their feelings after asking the online community,

"Ex-racist people of Reddit, what changed your views?"

"One time he was talking..."

"Brother was racist."

"We both love science fiction."

"One time he was talking about all the cool races in the Star Wars and Star Trek and Mass Effect universes. How creative Lucas and Roddenberry were. He talked about how great it would be to be among those races as a human and acquaint yourself with alien cultures and people and mythology."

"I said, "You can't even mingle with the other races on your home planet."

"What I said had some effect on him. He's very noticeably more "tolerant" and curious about other peoples now. I think he realized that his previous philosophies were not in line with those of The Federation. Good for him."


"I moved away..."

"I moved away from my one-horse hometown and got away from my extremely prejudiced family."


Sometimes it's as simple as that.


"I didn't even live in a one-horse town. My hometown had one of the fastest-growing zip codes in the country at one point before I left for college."

"However, the religious environment I grew up in (more the Catholic/Christian aspect of it - my religious upbringing is stupidly complex) was very racist (and homophobic of course, I feel like those always go hand-in-hand). My father told me that the Bible says you shouldn't date outside your race and that I would never date or marry a Black or Hispanic man because he didn't want his bloodline mixing with theirs. Don't worry, this wasn't his thoughts, he talked to god and god told him this!"

"Jokes on him, after dating a bunch of loser (just so happened to be white) guys, I was set up on a blind date with a man who happens to be Hispanic. That was 5yrs, 5 pets, and a house purchase ago, and we're getting engaged any day now. I had to go through a journey to becoming a decent person before that, but it started pretty immediately after I went to college and started making friends that didn't have to be approved by my parents. Turns out all of the people my parents hate are actually really nice and supportive people once you treat them as humans. Meanwhile, all of the respect and courtesy in the world won't make my parents any less...themselves."


"Very soon after that..."

"My dad would make disparaging remarks about Black people, Mexicans, Chinese people, etc. when I was a kid. I remember repeating those same sentiments and no one ever corrected me. In first grade, we were all assigned pen pals from a school in another city, and mine was a Black girl named Chardonnay. I thought she had a weird name and I was disappointed when I found out she wasn't white."

"Very soon after that, we learned some very basic info about the civil rights movement during Black history month. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, separate water fountains, segregated schools, stuff like that. After that, I felt really bad about being racist and wanting a different pen pal, and really ashamed of my dad and grandparents for thinking that way. And I was so mad that they'd taught me to think that way. After that, I was really happy to have the opportunity to write to my pen pal and get to know her better. I'm so thankful that my school started teaching us about racism early on. It's scary to think how I could have ended up if those sentiments had gone unchecked."


We're happy to hear that they were.

"Even as a child..."

"I wasn't allowed to dance with a black boy in Kindergarten. I thought it was stupid and I was so embarrassed. Even as a child it made no sense. I always hoped he had no idea what happened because it hurt my heart and I always thought he was cool."


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"She made astounding late life progress..."

"My grandma grew up in Virginia in the 1900s. Being racist is just the default setting. Nana loved her family more than anything, though. So at one point in the late 1980s, she met her first not-100%-white grandkid and discovered she still loved him."

"She made astounding late-life progress accepting that darker skin-toned people were not only people but family, friends, and welcome in her house."



"When I was wounded in Iraq..."

"When I was wounded in Iraq two white guys stepped over me (one literally stepped on my back) to get themselves to a safer place. A black guy picked me up like I was a child, carried me to safety, and held my hand until a medic got there."



"Going to college..."

"I grew up in a white bubble. White neighborhood, white schools, white friends. I wasn't hate-filled or anything towards other races, just a bit nervous due to zero experience. I heard a lot of racial epithets but didn't say them myself."

"Going to college, I met many people of many different races and found most of them were good people. I discovered that the same 10% a-hole to 90% good people I found among white people at my high school translated to college as well. The aholes were not grouped in a particular minority, but pretty universally scattered."

"Mom was surprised when I brought home a girlfriend from college who wasn't white. Mom asked why I didn't tell her in advance, but I didn't think it was important. I married that girl a few years later."


"Joined the military..."

"Joined the military, left home, and experienced cultures around the world. I wouldn't say I was ever racist and thought I was better than anyone but I was severely lacking in cultural awareness due to growing up in a small town surrounded by openly racist people. Luckily, my children are able to grow in a completely different environment than the one I did."


Travel definitely changes you. Broadening your horizons is important.

"Moving out..."

"Moving out of a predominantly white neighborhood and meeting people of different races and back rounds. Realizing they are just people like you trying to live their lives."


"My parents..."

"For background context, I'm a first-generation Cuban American. My mom is from Havana and my dad is from Miami.

My parents are horrifically racist and I grew up in that environment, surrounded by my white-passing racist family. Thankfully I unlearned most of it in my late teens and hold myself accountable as an adult.

My husband is Native American and the microaggressions my parents commit whenever around him are horrific. I continually call them out for it and have begun setting boundaries while interacting with them."


"She still denies..."

"I was raised by a 'diet racist' - she instilled in me a general distrust of anyone Hispanic or Black, or just different. Also a hatred of my own self, but that's not relevant here. She still denies that her mother, her grandmother, and her herself are 'haole' or white-born Hawaiians (every one of them born there before it became a state). I didn't hang around with a lot of people in general throughout school, and the ones that I did hang around with were pretty white. I don't recall her having issue with Asians of most types, though she was jumpy around some Middle Easterners, which I also picked up on.

It's taken me a while to acknowledge I'd even absorbed that 'diet racism', because every improvement I've made over the years has been gradual. One of my first jobs I worked alongside a very friendly, intelligent Hispanic guy. He ended up dating and (I imagine) marrying one of my friends at that job. I found out after I was friends with him that he was working on an expired green card. I just thought it was too bad that he was stuck in the position he was in, because he was a good person. So there went that aspect - now I'm only concerned if I'm shown hostility first.

Getting rid of the diet racism against Black people involved finding myself homeless in Missouri, where a Black-run church took me in and allowed me to sleep there (especially as winter was coming, and they do get snow there). I became friends with some of the pastor's kids, and may have even had a brief crush on one. It was surprisingly relaxing to let go of that tension. I do still get pegged for racist sometimes, though generally it's because I'm wary of strangers in general anymore, regardless of appearance.

I'm working a lot on any biases I still have, even if it's just "hey, let me look up this culture on youtube and learn more about it." it's not a perfect solution, but it's helped me, I believe. There's so many interesting cultures out there, and we're all just humans at the end of the day. I just have really bad social/general anxiety."


You can learn so much just by moving outside of your comfort zone. That's the moral of the story here, so get out there and challenge yourself. You might be surprised by who you meet and get to know along the way.

Have some stories of your own? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments below!

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