The popular-vote loser in the White House insists that his opposition to protests by players in the National Football League is not about race. Before I throw the B.S. flag, I want to say I think he actually believes that. Although I’ve spent my entire life (until this coming Sunday) living and working in the South, I don’t think I’ve ever met a living soul who thinks they are racist.
That is one of the insidious features of this pernicious evil. It infects EVERY white person, but most of us live as though we are immune. That would be like being immune from the smog we breathe every day or the toxins in the food we eat. None of us are immune, because racism is the water in which we swim.
Hopefully, most of us are not as ignorant of our own infection as the current occupant of the White House. Let me confess that I have worked consciously on purging my life of racism since I was in middle school, and, just about the time I’m feeling smug about it, something arises and I am smacked in the face with the toxic infection in my soul. We live in a persistently racist culture, and it is all too seldom named, let alone confronted. So, like our Racist-in-Chief, we continue blithely unaware.
I lost about 15 pounds a few months ago and was well on my way to my ideal weight. Then this move and change came along, and I took my eye off my goal. Like some black magic, poof, the weight came back with a vengeance. That is how it is with racism. For white people, it is a lifelong battle to eradicate it in our lives and in our world. If we slack up for even a second something like the phrase “black magic” will slip into our conversation without us even recognizing that making “black” evil/bad/wrong is yet one more manifestation of the insidious racism that infects everything.
An African-American friend was talking recently about how our government blackmails poor white people to stay in power. I finally had to stop them and ask if they would not use the word “blackmail.” I’ve spent years eradicating it in favor of the color-free word “extortion.” Of course, my black friend using that word was not racist, but the reason it is used in our culture is.
Those language examples are innocuous enough, but they simply are examples of ways in which we all are caught in a culture that is pervasively racist in many more harmful ways. When we deny our racism rather than struggle against it, we are following the popular-vote loser’s example, not Jesus’.
Rev. Michael Piazza