I do appreciate your kind response, and I sincerely apologize for implying that you believed “once a racist, always a racist”. While the phrasing did not make such an accusation in any way, the overall tone of my reply most certainly did. Again, I was wrong, and I apologize. (reminder to self: install hinge in knee to make it easier to kick myself in the a**)

That being said, I think the problem is the term “good racist”, which you do seem to feel is an oxymoron…and given your personal experiences, you would probably have very good reason for saying so. The intent of my reply was to demonstrate that there are many good-hearted, well-meaning people who bear no malice towards anyone, but who (through their own ignorance and lack of experience) are nonetheless racist…and because they hold no malice, honestly believe that they are not racist at all. These people are not the same as the Schlossbergs and Trumps of the world whose racism is most certainly informed by the malice they hold towards others. Therefore, the terms “good racist” and “bad racist” are too simplistic by half. Perhaps a more accurate (if unwieldy) description might be “malicious people” and “non-malicious people” who happen to be racist.

The reason I’m so insistent about this is that I knew that most of my family were good-hearted, well-meaning, and held no malice towards others. My mother and I ran a used clothing store in Shaw, Mississippi where 95% of our customers were black. They liked us because we did our level best to help everyone, that we treated them no differently than anyone else. Our actions were not racist at all…but we were most certainly racist, for as soon as we were in the car going home after work, we’d swap all the old racist assumptions and allegations and jokes…but even as we did so, we’d wish that the blacks we knew could be more successful, could have better access to education, and could live happy and prosperous lives. Racism is certainly evil, but we were not evil. The evil of racism certainly informed our private social and political attitudes, but did not negate our innate desire to do what we thought was good and right for everyone.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. We all have a tendency to judge others (though many of us strive to fight that tendency)…and I’m no exception. Thus far in my life, it seems best that if one must judge, then do so on the presence or absence of malice. Racism borne of simple ignorance can be corrected and even cured, but racism borne of malice is, well, evil.

If you want to help change hearts and minds, then target those who hold no malice, who are simply ignorant of their own racism and the very real harm it causes. When it comes to those racists who are malicious, however, beyond exposing, ostracizing, and possibly prosecuting them, they are not worth your time and effort.

I’d like to close with a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good.

I would qualify his quote by saying that in my experience, his maxim applies only to those who are neither malicious nor sociopathic (or otherwise mentally or emotionally abnormal). But his quote certainly applies to my family since we always thought that what we were doing was good and right, and did not recognize the evil for what it was.

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Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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