There should be no doubt that political movements are a mix of good and bad. Because PEOPLE are a mix of good and bad. Every single PERSON is a mix of good and bad. I, and you.
I am a racist. You are a racist. Every person on both sides of the racism divide is a racist, aren’t they? And almost everyone of us likes to talk in sweeping generalizations, and reject labels that point to our weaknesses. Every spectrum can be divided into infinitesimal parts, and in the realm of racism, I contend that even a single person falls at different points on that spectrum, depending on the question or the moment.
Racism hurts most by denial. If you deny your own racism, it’s certainly easier to be dismissive about systematic racism. I grew up in a completely white town and school. More diverse environments are less familiar to me. I cannot be blamed for that. But I can be justifiably blamed for hardening my heart defensively in conversations involving these larger issues.
The following kind of remark is wholly consistent with my background, but think about its potential impact on someone else: “I’m not a racist. I have a lot of black friends. I work with a lot of black people.” That might seems innocuously natural to some people, but it wounds the hearts of minorities, women, gays, etc. It’s a statement about your otherness, regardless of your intention. Eat some humble pie and let empathy rise up inside of you. It IS inside of you, and you can’t blame its suppression on your background.
Black people are different than I am. How different? For some, the difference is only skin deep. But without a doubt, for others, it is much, much deeper. The white man seated next to me is different than I am. For some, without a doubt, the difference is very, very deep.
Are your ego defenses really so important to you that you would risk alienating the fellow white man seated next to you? If you do offend him in casual conversation, now what is your excuse? “Sorry, I didn’t know you are gay, a recovering alcoholic, an ex-con, a person who just lost his child, a sexual abuse survivor,…”
I, and you, are a mix of good and bad. If you deny that, it’s certain you are dishonest. Even if you aren’t consciously lying, you have lied to your self. This is part of wisdom. There’s not a 50-year-old on the planet who can’t see through these lies, and that’s because middle-agers have told themselves many of the same. We won’t blame you for things about which you are blameless. And many of us won’t even blame you for things about which you are culpable—IF you drop the denial so that we can see your actual goodness hidden behind your artificial anti-badness walls (“I’m not a racist”).
If this kind of consciousness is new to you, here is just one suggestion I offer for cultivating it:
Neil D. 2020-09-20