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How to End Racism in One Generation

Updated on November 13, 2015
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John Ceccon is a comedian, actor and producer from San Diego. He has performed nationally and has been seen on HBO and Comedy Central.

Our Gang
Our Gang

I remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news as he reported on the civil rights movement in 1963. There were no 24 hour news channels back then and families only had one TV that was centrally located which made it a de facto family room. I watched the videos of black people being hosed down with fire hoses by the police during the protests and not understanding why these people were being treated that way. It was very confusing for me. My grandmother shook her head in disbelief saying how wrong it was to treat people that way. In 1974, my home town of Boston was court ordered to begon school desegregation in an effort to implement a racially diverse student body and along with it came the expected protests and resistance to the plan. Again, this confused me because I lived in a racially diverse neighborhood, it was like the United Nations, and the group of kids I hung out with were already racially mixed - nobody forced us into it. We found similarities with each other and gravitated towards that.

Whenever I see news reports of or witness acts of racism, I get aggravated, then I get frustrated, then I retreat to my basic childhood understanding of racism, which is confusion. I don't point fingers, I don't pick sides, I blame racists as well as their victims, because, in my experience, the victims of racism eventually become racists themselves. Racism has become so convoluted that it is difficult to determine if the chicken or egg came first. Right about now, you're probably engaging in some form of judgement of me. Don't worry about me my friend, just teach your kids right.

Bringing home a newborn from the hospital is like bringing home a new computer. They both have some basic software load onto them that will allow them to operate on a basic level, with limited functionality. It is up to you as a parent to dial in that software.

I remember coming home from my first day in the first grade at Cathedral Grammar School in 1963 and my mother asking me about it. She asked me some of the questions you would expect a mother to ask her child after their first day of school. She asked me if I liked the Catholic nuns and if they were nice. Well - I didn't, and they weren't. (no, really, I'll tell you all about it here) She also asked me if I made any new friends, which I did. I told her I met this "nigger boy" named Harold. I was seven years old, it was 1963 and I only knew of three words that were used to describe black people - nigger, colored, and negro. At seven years old, I had no way of knowing that in the 60's, negro or colored was considered to be politically correct words, and nigger was not. After hearing my innocently ignorant description of Harold, my mother and I had a little talk about all God's children. She taught me. She taught me right. From that point on I was OK. It was like this weight of the future had been removed from my shoulder, I just didn't know it yet.

I was like butterfly wings - not yet touched by racism.

I don't ever recall my mother, father, or grandmother (who owned the house we lived in) referring to a black person as a nigger. I don't ever remember them watching a news report on TV of, say, a black person robbing a bank and hearing them say "what do you expect with THOSE people". We lived right next to Chinatown, and yet, I don't ever recall my mother, father, or grandmother referring to a Chinese person as a chink. Never heard them call a Puerto Rican a spick. Interestingly enough, my parents friends also reflected this mindset. We lived in a racially mixed neighborhood. When we hung out in there park, there were no groups of blacks, or whites that were exclusive. We all hung out together. Because of all these factors, I have always lived on the periphery of racism.

I have two children, and guess what? They have never heard me, or their mother call a black person a nigger. They have never heard me refer to an Asian person a chink. They have never observed me watching a news report on TV of, say, a black person robbing a bank and hearing them say "what do you expect with THOSE people". MY friends reflect my non-racist mindset. My children see who I interact with and how they treat people. The story goes on, and so does the teaching, but it doesn't end there. Yes, the teaching goes on. Fours years ago, my daughter had a son. Guess what?.................. Yeah, thats right. Guess what words she uses around her son to describe a black, asian, or hispanic person.

Teach your kids right people!

If you hate someone that you have never met and know nothing about, you're part of the problem - please stop! If you hate someone only because they hate you, you're part of the problem too - please stop!

© 2015 John Ceccon

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