What happens when a hippie marries a prideful southerner?
I suppose you get a child like me--one who questions everything. I grew up in a confusing environment with two parents instilling in me conflicting beliefs. I had one parent telling me interracial marriage was wrong while the other was telling me to love everyone equally. One parent taught me that Christianity, specifically Baptist Christianity, was the only correct religion, while the other sometimes questioned denominations as varying perspectives of one creator. As a child, you expect your parents to know what is right and true because of some genetic make-up that tells you so, but time and age along with personal growth will often change that narrative.
I remember being in middle school and feeling guilty for thinking Black boys were cute. I remember meeting other students who might mention their religion--whatever it may be outside of Baptist Christianity--and thinking they were being misguided in their religious teachings. I had a ‘me versus them’ attitude, or, more precisely, an ‘I am right’ versus ‘they are wrong’ attitude. I held this perspective for many years until I began meeting more and more people who were different than me in some way.
I spent my high school years silently questioning the beliefs I was often taught as a child. I could not admit when I had a crush on someone whose race was different from mine, though it happened on multiple occasions. I befriended many who were of the LGBTQ+ community, and yet, I never would have called myself an ally or attended a parade in support. I loved people as best I knew how, but I questioned that love, too. How do you love someone without allowing them to be their true self, and what gives one person an advantage over another? For example, what made my religion, my skin color or my personal ideologies (that were not really mine to begin with) any better than those of another student passing me by in the hallway?
What I l have learned is that everyone has a story. When you stop simply hearing your own side, you start listening to what others have to say. As I began to listen to people similar and different from me, my mind opened in ways it never had before. I often found connection and understanding through the differing challenges and excitements within our lives.
A common theme that was shared was pain. We all had hardships and things we needed to overcome, and while some stories were harder to hear than others, our challenges were not meant to be a competition. Our challenges were what made us human and real. They brought us together rather than dividing us, which is the opposite of what I had been taught during parts of my childhood.
At 24 years old, I can finally and boldly say that I was wrong. I was taught Christianity through a racist lens; I was taught bigotry; I was taught hate and destruction. It is not easy to admit these truths when my personal values are so clearly different now. Today, I value religious freedom and exploration, I celebrate differences among individuals and I use my voice in an attempt for a brighter, more wholesome world where we all learn to coexist with one another. Getting to the place I am at now did not happen overnight. I suffered many years feeling confused, lonely, and even isolated in my beliefs, but ultimately, I know what I believe to be true now: we are all human beings who are desperately seeking love and belonging, and the ways in which we go about achieving those concepts are what often create our differences. I am not proud of the prejudiced views I held in my past, but I am grateful that my inner conscience began to question the legitimacy of what I was taught. Just because you are taught something during childhood does not make it true; it is possible to learn a new and better way of thinking that leads with love and understanding rather than hate and ignorance.
Caysea is a passionate mental health advocate from the state of Georgia inside the United States. You can find her on Instagram @__caml.b