Valley Voices

Bill Warner: I grew up a racist

Bill Warner
Bill Warner

America is in shock over the young white boy who decided to murder several people in church because he did not like the color of the skin. There are two elements in this horrible situation: the “us vs.them” mind set and the “trigger-pulling mentality.”

The easy availability of weapons is pretty much an insoluble problem. Between people who have them for recreation, those who live in fear of “the bad guys,” and the gangs who use them to project their power, there are so many out there they defy control.

Specifying smaller magazine loads and other useless measures is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Complete disarmanent of America is the only thing that might work, and we all know that is never going to happen. So, half the battle is lost before we even start looking for solutions.

The main part of the equation is rampant racism: “us” vs. “them.” Hitler divided people into the “Supermen,” (white, Christian, blond, pure, tall, steadfast Nordic followers of him) and everyone else: mental defectives, Gypsies, Jews, Slavs, political opponents, etc.)

When I was a Marine, we were the “Supermen,” better than “gooks,” “sand N-words,” “rag heads,” and “commies” etc. Once you use a sub-human name, it’s OK to exterminate “them”).

Tutsi vs. Hutus, Orangemen vs. Irish Rebels, Croatians vs. Serbs, Yanks vs. Rebels, Crips vs. Bloods, Christians vs. Muslims, blacks vs. whites, gays vs. straights, and so on, ad infinitum. Put weapons in the hands of haters, and its easy to kill “sub-humans.”

Is there is any solution to this? Maybe. We were taught and teach hatreds, either overtly or indirectly. A “Jewish Joke” needs to be seen as an anti-Jewish joke. Are we part of the solution or part of the problem?

Can you change people’s mindsets by showing them that their “us vs. them” thinking may someday cause the death of their children?

Can you get to know people you used to think of as “them?”

How many soldiers would find it easy to shoot an “enemy” if they sat down together, had a beer and showed each other pictures of their families?

The Christmas Truce in northern France in 1914 between the Germans and the English soldiers facing each other across “No Man’s Land” is worth considering. After playing soccer, exchanging bully beef for cigars, showing family photos and praying together, these men had to be removed from that sector of trenches, as they refused to shoot each other any more.

I grew up a racist, because I lived in a racist society.

In World War II, the Nazis and the “Japs” were horrible sub-humans. Now, after meeting these people in a different setting, we drive Toyotas and Volkswagens.

One of my most faithful friends is a black ex-con, whom I have known for many years. He grew up in an atmosphere of crime in his neighborhood and wound up doing 19 years in federal penitentiaries for stealing a bag of mail. Today he is a model citizen.

Would he have grown up differently in a different neighborhood?

I learned that whites were better than blacks until I made staff sergeant and was put in a room with two black con-commissioned officers. I learned they had families, liked the same things I did and were great guys. I’d have trusted either of them with my back.

Perhaps we should all stop and think about the role we play in molding the minds of our children.

Do you have any better ideas?

Bill Warner of Porterville is a founder of the South Valley Peace Center in Visalia.