“No, I am not a racist.”
The problem with self-declared exonerations such as our president recently gave is that they’re meaningless. (And no, I’m not saying that he or his administration is meaningless – far from it! But, judging the meaning of the current administration is not the subject of this posting.)
Here’s the issue: statements such as “I am not racist” originate from our own point of view. They are an expression of how we see ourselves. And of course, we are our own heroes in the reality show that is our life. So, no – we’re certain that we’re not racists. We’re not misogynists. We’re not bullies. We’re not evil. Those are negative words, about nasty things – everybody agrees they’re nasty, but we’re not nasty – so no, such nasty, negative, sad terms are not labels that can be applied to us.
In proclaiming our guiltlessness, we ignore that we cannot provide a valid and balanced judgment of ourselves with regards to the accusation that we are racist. That judgment must be left up to others, to those who are the victims of racism. Our racism (or any oppressive behavior we may exhibit) can be only identified by another, not by ourselves. We cannot be our own judge.
So, when someone who is the target of racism says “You are racist.” My response must be “OK, how am I racist?” Not “I am not racist!”
I must learn from them how my racism is affecting them. I must learn how they see my racism impacting their lives and the lives of their peers, friends and family.
Being told that one is racist must be approached as an opportunity to learn and grow, not as the start of a fight over who is right – because such fights are won by the person with power, and racism is rooted in the question of who has power vs. who does not have power.
If someone believes themselves and their position to be beyond challenge (as our president has proclaimed himself to be), then there is no argument from his point of view: he has the power, he has judged himself to not be racist, and that’s the end of the discussion.
The racist wins.
In such a confrontation, the self-declared winner will never grow. They will never accept that there is a need to learn, or grow, or change. They cannot recognize their own racism, and will never accept another’s judgment of such. They live a lie.
Fortunately, if we open ourselves to being judged by others, then those who are afflicted by our own sins of racism, or misogyny, or bigotry, or classism, or …, can help us change for the better. We can become an ally, not an obstacle. We can bring healing, not pain.
Only by accepting the judgment of others and using it as an opportunity to begin a dialog that will bring healing and growth – of allowing ourselves to be changed for the better – can we truly live the life that our faith calls us to live: to Love God with all our heart, soul and mind; and (most especially) to love our neighbors as ourselves.
– Pastor Allen
Copyright (c) 2018, Allen Vander Meulen III.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.