Racism is a way of life for some people, while others only judge based on one’s character. The way someone was raised may predispose them to racism, but does not condemn them to a life of it. Change is only brought about by shooting down the stereotypes that fuel hate and acknowledging that people are just people.
I am a member of a Facebook fishing group called the Oneida Lake Diehards and came across a story too important not to be repeated. The story starts with a young Caucasian kid, 16 years old, who wanted to go fishing and a fisherman named Wayne who was happy to help. Sounds good so far, but the tide was soon to change. I have never personally seen racism amongst sportsmen, but it does exist. There are also people like Wayne out there who are bigger than some stupid stereotypes. The news today tends to paint a picture of a racist society that has no care for other types of people. This could be no further from the truth. While these problems do exist, the rate at which they are reported is drastically slanted in a negative direction. Wayne’s story is about a caring and humble man who was dragged into a world of hate, but refused to perpetuate it.
Wayne Wright was contacted via personal message on Facebook several times by the young man asking if he would take the boy out fishing. Wayne is an African American and, like most of us, doesn’t see color. He thought nothing of helping this white child as he was raised to respect everyone. His father dropped him off at the dock and they set out to fish. They had a great time on the water and landed tons of fish. When they were finished, the boy’s father picked him up at the dock and repeatedly thanked Wayne for taking his son out. This is a great and uplifting story, right? Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end. Shortly after taking the boy out, Wayne saw a post from the young man. To his surprise, the kid posted, “THE TWO THINGS I HATE THE MOST…NOSEY PEOPLE AND [expletive]!!!” Wayne was obviously shocked by his statement as he had given his time to help the boy. If the boy had any negative perception as to race, he should have learned the complete opposite by the example Wayne set. The fact that Wayne took the time to help should have been enough to dispel any stereotype that the kid had been fed. Many would have torn into the kid and generalized the race he came from, while highlighting the lack of intelligence by such people, but Wayne was bigger than the hate.
Wayne stated that he wasn’t upset, rather hurt and saddened for the child. He knew the boy had to learn such behavior somewhere, likely at home or with his friends. Either way, the kid’s mind has been polluted by garbage and Wayne had to experience it. Wayne told me about how amazing his mother and father were and how they taught him to respect everyone. He wasn’t sure the post was directed towards him and didn’t want to stoop to the kid’s level, so he just talked to friends and family about it. One friend suggested that he post something about the incident, stating it was something that needed to be addressed. His reason for this is that Wayne isn’t a racist and has helped many people and donated his time to children of all types while coaching Pop Warner football. He is a kind and caring person that in no way should have had to deal with such disrespect. Wayne agreed with his buddy and posted his story.
At first, it crossed Wayne’s mind to print the boy’s name but decided against it. He said, rather than put the kid on blast, he would rather pray for him instead. The response by local fishermen was amazing for the most part. When statements were made about judging white people, saying you should never trust them and they are all the same, Wayne quickly made the point that their statements were as racist as the child’s and he does not and will not support such discrimination. He said he is unable to judge a whole group by the actions of individuals and such behavior is racist at its core.
There was such outrage over the statement made by the youth, many wanted to know who it was. Most wanted to give the kid a reality check while others wanted to dish out some physical punishment. Wayne again corrected everyone stating that he was likely a product of his environment and asked that we pray for the kid. This kind of reaction can be taken two ways. Some said rather than turn the other cheek, slap the crap out of the offensive party, while most agreed with Wayne and said ignorance and negativity are the problem in the first place and carrying yourself in that manner only continues to fuel the hate. At this point, I was humbled by his lack of need for revenge. We all have a lesson to learn from Wayne and could benefit from having an as open mind as he has.
I was raised in the south until I was 12 and experienced the racism being forced upon all of us daily. It was the lack of such a mindset here in the north that really opened my eyes to the problem as a kid. I was able to drop stereotypes and learned that if you are going to judge, it must be on the singular level, based on that person’s actions. You see, the ability to change is there, all you have to do is embrace it, pass it on and treat everyone as equal. In nature, animals definitely do not discriminate based on color. I promise you, deer downwind don’t recognize color, only human presence and will treat all people as danger and flee. Fish only see color below the water’s surface and could care not about the race of the person wielding the rod. We should take example from fish and deer, by treating everyone the same and only judging by one’s presentation.
Please, do all you can to break down racial stereotypes and teach by example as much as possible, like Wayne. Thank you for being such a great role model, Wayne, the world needs more people in it like you!
Good wishes and if you see Wayne out and about, make sure to thank him for being such an amazing person and setting such a great example for everyone to follow.