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Bigotry Can Be Unlearned

, , , , | Related | May 21, 2018

(I have always been very close to my grandfather, to the point we were nearly inseparable when I was little. My grandfather has very dated views on the world and I am told that I helped to change those views. All of these stories are told to me when I am older.)

Grandpa: *talking to his daughter* “I’m just saying that women shouldn’t be preachers! Y’a’ll can work normal jobs now, and that’s fine, but certain jobs should be for a man! A preacher is called Father for a reason!”

Me: “Grandpa, does that mean I can’t be a preacher when I’m older?”

Grandpa: “Well, I… That’s a bit different, Squirt. You’re a very smart young girl, and I think you’d be good at whatever you did. But other women shouldn’t do those things. It’s not natural.”

Me: “But if I’m smart enough, couldn’t there be other girls that are smart enough, too?”

Grandpa: “I mean, there could be… It’s just… Oh, forget it. You just don’t understand yet.”

(On another occasion.)

Grandpa: *to his friend* “I fought in Vietnam, so I know those Asians are good for nothing! I watched them kill their own people over there. One woman died right in front of me because she hid us away. They killed one of their own in cold blood, no proof at all she’d done it! They’re disgusting.”

Me: “But Grandpa, you just said one lady saved your life. She was Asian. Doesn’t that mean there are good Asians. too?”

Grandpa: “Squirt, don’t you go mixing me up now. I know what I saw, and those people were evil.”

Me: “Were the people who were killed evil?”

Grandpa: “No, they weren’t, but it’s just… Ugh, you’re too young to understand.”

(Yet another time…)

Grandpa: *at the kitchen table* “When I moved up from the south to my new schoo,l there was a [racial slur] in my class. I walked straight up to him and punched him straight in the nose! That taught him real quick who was boss!”

Me: “Did he hurt you, Grandpa?”

Grandpa: “He couldn’t land a hit on me! I got him before he even knew it was coming!”

Me: “But Grandpa, you told me never to hit someone unless they hurt me first!”

Grandpa: “That’s right, Squirt, but sometimes you just have to show who’s stronger.”

Me: “You told me the bigger person is the one who can solve things without hurting people.”

Grandpa: *thoughtful pause* “You’re right. You remember not to hit people now, you hear?”

(Years later when I heard these stories, I asked my Grandpa about them. He said he learned some valuable lessons from me about discrimination, violence, and how to keep his mouth shut in front of the kids. Every once in a while I still have to talk some sense into him, but he has come a long way and I still love him dearly.)

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