Saturday, November 17, 2012

Who Me? Racist?

On the day of President Obama’s first inauguration, I was thrilled to see how far our nation had come. Almost immediately afterwards, I was dismayed by the deluge of verbal attacks on the president which amounted to thinly-veiled racist attitudes.  If you have read my assessment of the Tea Party Republicans you know that I see racism to be a factor in that drive to “take our country back.”

The truth is, demographics have changed. Those who have lived their lives accustomed to being part of the privileged class by virtue of being Caucasian are understandably unsettled. All the online “petitions” to secede from the union are only the latest signs of unease regarding race, culture, and the country’s changing demographics.  When I have pointed out the element of inherent racism in the system to some of my friends on the far right, the response has usually been one of quick denial. Someone recently asked if I placed myself among the racists in the privileged class.  After giving it some thought this was my response:   

Speaking as a white man and having grown up in the segregated South, I have to say that what was ingrained in us culturally is very difficult to shake. We learned not to use the “N” word and thought that meant we were no longer racist. In truth, there are a thousand other ways we show disrespect without always realizing it.

As a Christian, I am challenged to examine those cultural things that I take for granted but which may be painful or disrespectful to someone else. This is especially true during the political season, and at a time when candidates freely toss around terms to appeal to faithful Christians. We should take care not to let the political machine drag us down to the level of those whose main motivation is money and power.

So yes, I would say that because I was born white, I have to try harder to understand the plight of the black, the Hispanic, and the immigrant in our society. I must examine the attitudes I have, the jokes I find funny, and the phrases I use that may try to put one person down just to make me feel more secure.



  1. Good points. You definitely get to the core of the issue when you say "I have to try harder"--and in the end, that's what it's all about, isn't it? Trying our best, whoever we are, to love our neighbor better.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Jeremy - you remind us that the "other" is indeed our neighbor.


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