D.P.’s story written by Deborah Mix
D.P. is a pseudonym and he is 23 years old
The first thing you should know is that my parents aren’t racists. They tried to talk to me about it. But I listened to my granddad—his dad was the head of a white supremacist organization in Kentucky. He told me that black skin was the mark of Cain, so it was a sign of evil. When he died I was in fourth grade, and I thought I could honor him by keeping his values.
My school was all white, and my best friend was also racist, so it was easy to keep to the thinking that African Americans were different. It was rooted in me. It didn’t mean anything to me to use slurs, like the N-word. Now I know I was depressed and confused. I was drinking and just talking big.
Then in November 2014, I was in an accident driving to work. My truck slid into a ditch and when I got out to see what happened, I got hit by a passing car, which hit another car before sliding off the road. After being hit, I was somehow able to help that driver and the other person he hit before the ambulance came. But it turned out my pelvis was fractured. At the hospital, I had a black nurse. She was so loving and compassionate, and she didn’t even know me! But once they gave me painkillers, I started saying all kinds of things, calling her names, the N-word. I don’t even know her name, but I wish I could apologize to her now.
I was in the hospital for five weeks, in and out of consciousness, and when I got home, I was completely dependent on other people. I hated it. I reached for a beer, like I always did when I was unhappy, but for some reason it just tasted awful, just literally sickening.
Then I remembered a family friend who visited when I was in the hospital. He prayed over me, and he invited me and my wife to visit his church. We took him up on the offer, and the first time we walked in I couldn’t believe how diverse it was. It was insane! I mean, I’ve been thinking difference is wrong, and here are all these people talking to me and welcoming us. Everything in the past I’ve done and said—I’m thinking about it and feeling guilty, but I’m still kind of numb.
I get involved in the choir—music has always been really important to me—and I get asked to lead a song. So I lead the congregation in “Something About the Name Jesus,” by Kirk Franklin. I’m singing and looking out at the congregation, and it’s just like a stained-glass picture. All these people have come together to praise the same God. Something in my spirit tells me that this is what is should be like. We’re supposed to be together, not segregated.
After the service, I’m eating lunch and I hear this man say, “When I heard them say your name, I wasn’t picturing a white kid. But you brought it. You sang that song!” I realize the person talking to me is the associate pastor, a black man. Before I know it, we’re friends, like real friends. I’m telling him about my marriage, about my life. He makes time for me, calling me his brother, and he’s like my family now. We talk every day.
When I think about how I used to think, what I used to say then. . . I couldn’t understand how my words affected others. I was hurting, angry. I always tell people you have to respond with love because you don’t know what that angry person is going through, what they’ve dealt with that makes them act that way.
I think God is asking me to tell my story. Where I was isn’t all that uncommon here in Muncie. I just want to see people love people. I keep coming back to what the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I know now that’s how I want to live, and I’m trying to be that man every day of my life.
It’s not easy to change. It hurts. Everything I thought is being obliterated. I spent time not knowing what to believe. But God is showing me love through other people. We’re all messed up, but we all came out of somewhere, you know? I want to help other people see they can change. I’ll tell my story to anyone who will listen.
This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.