John joined the Army in 2006, and the most valuable lesson he learned while he was serving was that his racist views were not valid.
He Grew Up in a Small Town
John joined the Army in 2006. In his small town in S.C., he was tired of having dead-end jobs, and the mechanic shop he had been working at went out of business.
He was raised in a single-stoplight town, and his parents were (and still are) pretty racist. He grew up thinking of Black people as inferior, being taught that being white was the perfect race. This was his upbringing, and one could say he was a product of his environment.
He Joined the Army
John joined the Army as a 91B and went through basic training. He knew that being racist wasn’t acceptable in the Army, so he kept his thoughts to himself. After completing basic training, he proceeded to Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
When he arrived at his first unit, they were assigned to live in barracks with two soldiers per room. John walked into his assigned room and was taken aback to find his roommate was Black.
Problems Rooted in His Racism
At first, they had some issues, which he now realizes were rooted in his racism. John complained to his NCO about his difficulties with his roommate but was told to get used to it, as nothing could be done. Over the next few months, however, John and his roommate, Derrick, started to get along.
John got to know Derrick better, and he realized Derrick was a cool guy. One night when John was out in town drinking with his then-girlfriend, an argument broke out with another person.
He Had His Back
Coincidentally, Derrick was in the same bar and stepped in to defuse the situation. The next morning, John woke up and realized that if he had gotten into the fight, he would have gotten in trouble, especially since their unit had recently experienced several alcohol-related incidents.
John expressed his gratitude to Derrick, who replied, “Nah man, we’re in the same unit. We’re buddies. We’ve got to watch out for each other. No need to thank me; I know you’d do the same.”
From that point on, John and Derrick got along even better and started hanging out together. A few more months passed, and Derrick invited John to his brother’s wedding. It was a few hours away, and Derrick thought it would be fun for John to attend.
A Wake-Up Call
Although John had already shed much of his racism by then, this wedding served as a wake-up call. He had never been surrounded by this many Hispanic and Black people simultaneously. Initially, he felt nervous, as it was a first for him. Just a year before, he would have believed that interracial marriages were wrong. But there he was, feeling at home.
The wedding was one of the best parties John had ever attended. The food was great, the drinks were flowing, and everyone was having a good time. As he nursed a hangover the next day, John promised himself never to make an issue out of race again. He also vowed to stand up against racism if he ever encountered it.
The following year went well, and John and Derrick remained close friends. When the time came for Derrick to be reassigned, John realized he had never told Derrick about his past racism. He also didn’t believe Derrick knew the impact he had on changing John’s views. They went to a local bar for a farewell party to celebrate Derrick’s departure and got drunk.
He Came Clean About His Past Racism
Outside the bar, while having a smoke, John mustered up the courage to share with Derrick how he had transformed his views on race. He apologized for the issues they had in the beginning, attributing it to his narrow-mindedness.
Derrick graciously accepted John’s apology and admitted he suspected that some initial issues stemmed from racial factors. Derrick expressed pride in his ability to bring about a positive change in John’s perspective on race.
Derrick and John maintained their connection and continued to stay in touch, and John will attend Derrick’s wedding this year.
One commenter praised him, saying, “People aren’t racist by nature. They grow up in a racist environment and are configured as such. It’s really mature of you to be able to look back and say, I was wrong, but I’ve grown and changed.”
“The army is the most diverse melting pot I’ve ever been in,” another added.
OMS6 wrote, “Every now and then I feel like there’s still hope for the Army.”
What do you think? Do you know anyone with a similar experience?
The post He Used to Be Racist, but After He Joined the Army His Views of the World Changed first appeared on Career Step Up.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / nakaridore. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.