Congratulations on getting of your small town and seeing this big ol’ world and some of its amazing inhabitants. And that quote is correct, nothing diminishes a racist point of view like getting out, being in the confines of “others,” and discovering that we all want the same things and have more in common than one would otherwise guess.
I found both of your essays enjoyable in that you were able to look at your town in the context of the much larger world. Stories like that always bring a smile to my face. I find them encouraging in the sense that even people who were brought up in racist environments can change.
And that’s why I write what I do.
I don’t have to see the change. I look at all of this as planting or nurturing seeds. Just as your epiphany didn’t come in one fell swoop, but was a process of having your perceptions changed … I think that’s what happens with others who for one reason or another find themselves in situations where they have to adapt or die or lose something very important. Like you being in the Navy, you either had to adapt — albeit ever so slowly — or live with the cognitive dissonance between what you learned in the Navy versus what you were taught at home or maybe get discharged. Idunno what the culture was like, but you get the point I’m making. (That was more for people who haven’t read your stories linked in the post above than you.)
Anyway, good stuff and thanks for sharing! We’re all learning from one another.