Sir, have you lived as a racist? Did you grow up in a racist family? No? Then can you perhaps bring yourself to listen to someone who has lived that life, who learned to utterly reject that life, and (most importantly) why he was able to do so? Or will you instead go the route that I’ve seen some take in past discussions elsewhere, assuming that “once a racist, always a racist”, that I am somehow trying to rationalize, to lessen through base rhetoric the cruelty and injustice committed by myself, my family, and much of my race against those of a darker skin?

We’ll see.

First off, for the great majority of human history, racism — indeed, almost all prejudice — was not considered a “human evil” at all, but was instead seen as a survival trait. We in modern times tend to forget that until travel by rail and automobile became ubiquitous, it was quite normal for people to not personally know anyone outside one’s own hamlet or town…and when a group of horsemen who looked very different rode up to one’s town, the townspeople had to decide very quickly whether those horsemen presented an existential threat to themselves and everything they held dear. “They’re different…are they here to rape and kill us all?”

You said, “There can be no rational positing that in racism some good qualities can be derived or juxtaposed.” I’m sorry, sir, but I would recommend that you learn about the conquests of the Mongols, the Huns, the Goths, and by innumerable other examples everywhere that humans dwelt…including by the Europeans, especially in the age of colonization. Without exception, their victims must have said among themselves, “those who are different are coming to conquer us, to kill us all.” As a result, suspicion of anyone who looked or worshiped differently was seen as a moral requirement for anyone who wanted to be seen as a responsible and trustworthy member of the community. It is only beginning in the 18th century (about 5% of recorded human history) that any major nations (beginning with England) even began to see diversity as a moral benefit rather than something to be feared.

Secondly, if we are to consider racism an “emphatic aspect of human evil”, then what are we to say of racist youths? I attended a “segregation academy” for a year. It was Indianola Academy, which was an all-white school in an 80%-black town. I strongly encourage you to read this article by The Atlantic about segregation academies in general and Indianola Academy in particular. As you read the article, bear in mind that almost all whites in Indianola (including the schoolchildren) accepted this system as good and right. While attending that school (in 1976) the n-word was said as normally as breathing, and was not seen as morally wrong by any of the students of the all-white student body.

So at what point are the children no longer excused for their “human evil” due to their youth? At what point do they suddenly become guilty of this “human evil”? Ten? Fifteen? Eighteen?

Thirty? Fifty? Eighty? Again, ignorance of moral right-and-wrong does not excuse commission of the wrong…but there is a great difference between “wrong” and “evil”.

Thirdly, if we are to consider racism a “human evil”, then pretty much every white person of the Mississippi Delta of my youth (including myself, my mother, my entire family, and every schoolchild) was evil…for we all used the n-word, told n-word jokes, and told each other how the blacks’ problems were all of their own making: “They can’t help it, you know how they are.”

The problem is, since we were all racist, and if racism cannot be anything but evil as you infer, then we were all evil…and I don’t think that you would personally believe that we were all evil.

So what’s the key? If you have taken the time to read my article in the first link above, then you will have read that none of us believed we were racists. We thought the real racists were the idiots who walked around in stupid hoods and robes. We happily shared from our garden and gave clothes and money to our black neighbors, and if one had been in danger, we’d have tried to save them without a second thought. In other words, we had no malice towards blacks, and because we had no malice towards blacks, we honestly believed we can’t have been racist. We did not realize that malice is not required for racism.

So…yeah, if you want to delineate between “good” and “bad” racists, it boils down to the absence or presence of malice. The malicious ones must be exposed, ostracized, and/or prosecuted…but the ones who are not malicious are the ones who don’t recognize their racism for what it really is, and what they need is not much different than what any schoolchild needs: education and understanding and patience. Public condemnation of the malicious ones is proper and expected, but public condemnation of the non-malicious ones only hardens their hearts, for they are being publicly shamed when they really didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. That, by the way, is why Hillary’s “deplorables” comment so unified many Republicans.

I look forward to your reply.

Written by

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

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