This is a story I’ve hesitated about discussing in the past. That makes sense. After all who wants to confess something so dark. But I have to talk about it to shed insight into how easy it is to find yourself in this position.
Because contrary to how the media depicts it, finding yourself in a darker place isn’t always the result of flaws within a person, at least not the flaws people think of. It’s definitely a result of weakness though. It’s also incredibly easy to do, I fear.
The facts are this. In 2005, I became close friends with a guy named Mickey.* He was an extremely close friend, the likes of which I didn’t really have on campus after a rather rough year before. Mickey gave me a connection I needed. We spent all of our time together between September and March in fact. He was important to me.
Mickey was also a racist. He was a rather virulent racist whose prejudice I didn’t initially see and to be honest I don’t think he saw. Mickey espoused an outright fear of black people. He criticized them nonstop. He was scared to be near them if they weren’t “safe” in his eyes. Most damningly, he used terms like “monkey” to describe his opponents, always claiming it was describing their behavior.
None of this phased me at the time. That was how desperate I was for companionship. Besides, it wasn’t like he started with this talk. There are people who have and they’re people I didn’t wind up talking to for long. Initially I took to Mickey because he was geeky like me. We seemed to have a lot in common.
And initially Mickey’s issues were seemingly specific. Mickey had a black roommate he disliked. I could relate. I had a roommate I despised the year before. So I got his frustration and related. Eventually Mickey got a transfer and that should’ve been it.
But it wasn’t and that was when his dark side came out. Mickey continued to fixate on his ex-roommate and his friends. This was when the simian language came out including the racist term “chimpanic” which I ignored and even allowed him to enter on at least one site under my ID. Mickey even flipped out at the slightest reference to rap music, including when I turned on my car stereo and Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” was playing.
In time, a relatively short time in fact, I ended my connection with him. The severance wasn’t over his behavior on that front but rather his behavior towards my autism. He said some unforgivable things about it and I chose to walk away from my friendship.
Mickey was a despicable racist. This is something I know now. But I know this too: I am guilty for not having confronted him over this. I am guilty for allowing his behavior to continue. I am guilty for just accepting his views as different from mine but not seeing them for the hate they were. I am guilty at my soul for trading my principles for companionship.
The thing is, I continued to view myself as a good, non-prejudiced person at the time. After all I was also good friends with my white RA and his black gf who became his wife. If I was cool with an interracial couple, I couldn’t be racist. And I wouldn’t say I was racist, at least intentionally. But I stress, my silence was a sin.
I’ve been haunted by my time with Mickey over the last few years. I’ve gotten more aware as I’ve aged and I’ve come to understand prejudice more. It’s not just the explicit signs. It’s the hidden things. The unspoken biases. Turning a blind eye to these things isn’t ok.
Mickey is the reason I can’t ever feel too proud of myself for my views. Because I know how easy it is to be comfortable with the opposite while still feeling proud of myself for being forward thinking. Mickey is why I fight to be better. Mickey reminds me that I can still slip.
Pride is a sin for a reason.
*Identifying details about the individual in question have been changed to protect their identity.