Updated: Oct 3, 2020
Congratulations! You don’t consider yourself to be a racist! That is actually something that we might be able to build on. It is not, however, worthy of an award. No, it appears you are only shooting par for the course. You see, you are not supposed to be proud of your racism and therefore we cannot recognize this as an accomplishment. I am sorry for all of your trouble and confusion. We are also not recognizing men who do not beat their wives. Racism and domestic abuse are not the way we are supposed to behave, and it is, therefore, not praiseworthy to merely refrain from these actions.
There is a lot of finger pointing these days around the word, “racist.” Many on the right feel that the left is quick to label republicans as racists, and they are quick to respond, emphatically, “I am not a racist!”
As someone who proudly stands left of center on issues of civil rights, let me just say that I am glad that you do not consider yourself a racist. The problem is, not being a racist is not good enough, and that is the gripe that I, and others like me, have with the right: not that you necessarily are or are not racist, but that you are not antiracist (or at least the Republican party does not present themselves in an antiracist manner.)
One way that the party falls short is by denying that racism in America is a problem. Recently, someone I know used the diversity of the Supreme Court as an example of how non-racist America is as a nation. Once more, we are shooting par. The court is supposed to represent the electorate. The reason that my friend can point to the court as an example of greatness is because it is an anomaly. It is remarkable relative only to the other branches of government, which are disproportionately a majority of white men. So yes, we are happy that the court is what it is supposed to be! But this in no way proves anything about the state of race relations in the United States because it is an outlier.
So, how do we act in a way that is more than just average? What can we do to actively fight racism? In his book “How to be an AntiRacist,” Ibram X. Kendi seeks to recontextualize the way that we understand racism. Instead of insisting that someone is either a racist or they are not, or that a country is racist, or it is not, we should label the actions of that person or place or institution as either racist or antiracist. One is racist if she acts in a way that is racist. One is antiracist if she acts in a way that fights against racism.
On the surface, it seems relatively simple. But it is actually quite profound if you consider it. If we only use the word racist intrinsically, then it is easy to dismiss. “I am not a racist!” Deed done. Give me my trophy. I said it; therefore, I am not! But if I have to act in a way that is antiracist then I have more to be accountable for. I am neither racist nor nonracist. I am someone who sometimes acts in a racist way, and sometimes does not. In the instances that I am not, I am fighting against racism in my actions.
By this definition, everyone is capable of acting racist - everyone. Nobody is above racism in this context, and, therefore, nobody is going to get a trophy or be condemned and branded a racist for life. People, places and institutions will be judged on how they behave. It is, therefore, difficult to look at our system, the way it behaves, and say that it is anti-racist. Do our laws actively fight against racism? If not, then they are automatically more susceptible to our biases.
If we just assume that we are not a racist country, then chances are we are going to unintentionally act in racist ways. How can we expect old white men to defy human nature and legislate in a totally non-racist manner, when we ALL act in racist ways? That does not mean they are intrinsically racist. It means they are not anti-racist, and therefore the laws will act in racist ways.
So no, Republicans, I do not think you are all racists. I do think that both parties have a long way to go in order to act as anti-racists. It requires a lot more from us than a declaration: “I am not racist!” It requires action and introspection. And so, no trophies today for this country. If we are not racist, then we are so in name only.
John 3:18 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth
by Josh Gane