On all sides
My social media feeds were full of commentary on and denunciation of the neo-Nazi action in Charlottesville, Virginia. I nodded and made sympathetic noises as I read articles and Tweets and long Facebook posts from both expected (Sojourners) and some unexpected (Beth Moore) sources.
Not that for a moment I think Canada doesn’t have its own racism problems, but troubling as this whole situation is, it is in the U.S., rooted in their particular contextual circumstances, so I didn’t sense any obligation to make a pronouncement.
But then I read an anguished comment – not a shout, but a whispered hope; not a status, but buried in comments on a thread – I wish more white Christians were raising their voices against this. And I’m crushed by “not all white people” defenses.
And the next day, my own city was splattered by anti-Semitic vandalism.
So I’m speaking up in my little corner with a few “all” statements of my own, directed first and foremost at myself. Maybe no one will read this, but it is one of what I intend to be many steps of not being silent.
Each person is created equal, imbued with the image of God. All people. No exceptions.
That’s a truth we all fail to live into at times.
Yes, of course, not all white people are prejudiced jerks – except that of course all white people are prejudiced jerks, and, unfortunately, so is everyone else. We all struggle sometimes not to discriminate against people who are a different colour/mentally ill/differently abled or in any other way seemingly dissimilar from us. But just because we’re all liable to fail does not make those failures any less hurtful to those who are affected by it.
It may be understandable that we all exhibit prejudice at certain moments, but it’s not excusable.
From here, I write my comments to those with the privilege of whiteness that allows us to turn away, stay silent or claim we’re too bored/weary of arguments to enter the fray. We need to condemn hate. We need to condemn threatening others. We need to condemn erecting walls – figurative or literal – to keep “undesirables” out. This behaviour is not okay and it must be atoned for and changed.
But let us be cautious of how quick we are to throw away those who behave so, for it may make it harder for us to identify when we cross the line. Let us remember to confess those times we allowed the hate to creep in. Let us confess the times we wished ill for others. Let us remember all the times we failed to extend an invitation, pretended not to see, or walked past, and let us repent.
I wonder if we start to say “those people” are worthless – even if it’s on the basis of chosen behaviour – we aren’t sliding toward the very prejudice we want to combat.
I’m not asking for clemency for perpetrators of hate crimes; I’m asking us to admit how close we are to being guilty ourselves. It’s hard to change what you refuse to admit is wrong.
To the people in my city who scrawled unbelievably vile messages of antisemitism, that was very wrong. There is no justification for that. Everyone has value...including you.
We’re all at least a little bit guilty. And we’re all deserving of love anyway.
Have I said too much or not enough?