I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in Central Ohio, first in a small town, then in the capital city. My dad was a blue-collar worker from rural KY, and he had some lifelong prejudices about anyone who was “other” but particularly black people.
I was a withdrawn kid who spent a lot of time reading, so, on the one hand, it was easy to fall into that “other” thinking since pretty much the whole world was “other” to me, but over time (more than I care to admit) the reading began to expose me to other cultures and experiences.
I also have historically used humor to deal with anxiety, and since much of humor is about the tension between pattern and novelty, racial and cultural differences lend themselves to an exploration of this tension. As an “other” myself, I tended to question accepted cultural artifacts (like Baby it’s Cold Outside which I thought was weird at best way before the current conversations about it) and eventually this tendency combined with my multicultural exposure through reading caused me to rethink my assumptions. This is a process that is still ongoing and involves more than perceptions of other races and cultures. As embarrassed as I may be at the memory of some of my past transgressions, a glance at the comments section of a newspaper article or Facebook post reminds me that I started from a better place and have come further from others (assuming they are not Russian bots), but I try to stay humble and work on breaking old habits.