On Sunday, an ordinary C-SPAN segment quickly transformed into a rare and moving conversation about racial attitudes in America, when a white man called in to admit he is prejudiced and wanted to change to “be a better American.”
Gary, an independent voter from North Carolina, told Heather McGhee, the segment’s African American guest and president of Demos, an organization working to promote equal opportunities, that his views were the result of certain fears about drugs and the country’s crime rate.
“I understand that they live in an environment with a lot of drugs, you have to get money for drugs,” he told McGhee. “It is a deep issue that goes beyond that. But when—I have these different fears, and I don’t want my fears to come true. So I try to avoid that and I come off as being prejudiced, but I just have fears. I don’t like to be forced to like people. I like to be led to like people through example.”
“What can I do to change? You know, to be a better American?”
McGhee paused, visibly touched by the powerful display of honesty. She thanked Gary for having the courage to share his concerns, which could spark a much-needed dialogue for all Americans of every race and ethnicity to challenge deeply rooted biases. McGhee then outlined several ways that he and all Americans could try to overcome prejudice, such as considering to get to know black families, attending a diverse church, and turning off the news, which creates an image of African Americans at odds with reality.
“Thank you so much for being honest and for opening up this conversation because it is simply one of the most important ones we have to have in this country,” McGhee said.
For more on the science of racism, head to our investigation here.