I have mentioned in several of my pieces that I grew up in an ultra-conservative far-right church and that I have a racist and bigoted past. I lay the blame for my earlier views on the Church I grew up; it shaped my early teen and young adult self into accepting a strict “us” vs “them” mentality. I look back at my time in Victory Hill Ministries, or as I now refer to it the Westboro of the South, with great personal pain and shame. It was in this church that I actively participated in a ‘haunted house’ every October called “Hell House.” In each scene of Hell House, we highlighted a particular sin and the inevitable consequences of living that sinful lifestyle. For instance, some of the recurring themes and scenes were an abortion sequences where an unborn baby is begging her mother not to kill her, a dad who suffered from porn addiction that eventually led to him murdering his family (yes, there were actual kids in the scene) and then himself, and the death of an aids victims who caught the HIV via homosexual sex.

Any reasonable person who is reading this is rightfully thinking to themselves “what the actual fuck?!?” As a matter of fact, that is my actual thought as I reflect on my past. How could I have been so stupid?  How could I not see the fatal flaws in the logic of the ‘church’s’ arguments? Well, when you realize that I grew up in a bubble where I only interacted with people who agreed with my doctrinal views and that I only consumed news i.e. Fox News, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, etc., who reinforced those viewpoints then it becomes much easier to understand how I could remain so ignorant. It doesn’t make it excusable, but it does make it understandable. How could I grow and have my worldview changed if it were never challenged?

Then something amazing happened I went to college and I began to interact with people who were different than me. I also discovered Twitter where Matthew Barlow saw one of my tweets about a death penalty case and began to call me out on my ignorance. But not in a way where it was demeaning or condescending, rather in a way that was challenging my position not my humanity. After several years, a Master’s degree in Sociology, and Donald Trump, I finally woke up. I woke up and realize just how ignorant, racist and bigoted I had been in the past, and I have committed myself to fighting back and healing the wounds that my ignorance and vote caused.

However, this is not always an easy task. It is something that is genuinely much easier said than done. I spent my first twenty-five years in a Church being heavily indoctrinated by a pastor who said that Muslims, migrants, and the LGBTQ+ community were dedicated to ending American freedom and Christianity. I did not just magically wake up one-day and stop being a bigot and a racist. As a matter of fact, it is a daily struggle to not let some of my once deeply held beliefs slip back into my thoughts and logic. Being a recovering racist is like being a recovering alcoholic. You’re always an addict and you’re always a bigot to some degree.

To counter that fact, I have surrounded myself with people who are more than willing to check my privilege, and to call me on my bullshit. When my right-wing-nut-job (RWNJ) self decides to pop-up my friends call me out. The point, there is hope for all us former RWNJs if we maintain a sponsor or a set of sponsors who will keep us in check. It is okay to admit that years of indoctrination will continue to shape and affect us, it is not okay to do nothing about it.

So please, learn from me. If you’re a former RWNJ find a set of friends who care about you and are willing to help keep the stupidity of your past in check. And to my readers who did not grow up in our environment, just know that if I can change anyone can change. You shouldn’t cancel us you should help grow, learn and become better people.