I heard about racism and thought I understood it. I learned about the Civil Rights Movement in school. I felt bad when I heard the story of Rosa Parks and others like her. The thing is they were just stories to me, I didn’t (I couldn’t) understand. I am a white male living in Utah, in what way could I understand discrimination? I had always been a part of the majority. One day, shortly after Trent and I had met, we were walking up the street with a crowed of other people to enjoy the fourth of july fireworks at Sugarhouse park. Trent and I were walking side by side, not holding hand or giving off any sign of being gay when we hear someone yell from across the street “FAGOTS!” I look up to see a group of shabby looking people looking at us laughing. I was a bit of a hot head so I yelled back “Come over here and say that too my face!” The group instantly shut up and ran up the street. I had never in my life experienced something like that. These people who didn’t know so much as my name hated me. We went up and watched the fireworks for a minute with little interest. As we were walking back to the car we passed a group of young black guys, one of them looked up at us, smiled, and said “what’s up bro?” not an ounce of judgement in his voice even though we were holding hands. In that instant I think I finally understood (in some small measure) what real prejudice felt like. I knew what it was like to be judged or hated for something you have no control over, such as the color of your skin or who you are attracted too. Until you have that moment of understanding you can never know the full and absolute tragedy of discrimination. I don’t wish this kind of experience, or any of the many others we have experienced since, on anyone.
I encourage you to truly walk in someone else’s shoes today. Someone you have previously judged or disliked. I do this exercise daily to keep my emotions and point of view in check. This is also a good time of year to put yourself out of your comfort zone and serve someone, even if that service is just a smile and a kind word. I try to live my life in such a way that the world is a better place for having me in it today. Never make anyone feel less then they are, never build yourself up by tearing others down, and never assume you know what someone else is going through or feeling. By doing these small things we can change the world and make it a better place.