From your comment: “When whites claim to be unaware of what they do, they’ve lost their audience.”

It may surprise you to know that I did not write my article with the intent of somehow seeking redemption or understanding or forgiveness. I wrote the article with the intent of giving those who oppose racism a bit of understanding of racists from the perspective of one who has lived that life.

The reason is that it’s difficult (if not futile) to address a problem if that problem is not fully understood. It’s so easy to assume that all racists know the wrongness of their beliefs and actions, and thus issue broad-brush condemnations. However, by doing so, we forget that the great majority of people - the great majority of all people - as a whole are generally good-hearted and well-meaning.

I refer you to look again at the quote by Solzhenitsyn: “To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good”.

Now juxtapose that with this (too-long) quote by a truly evil man, Hermann Goering:

“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Goering was evil…but his evil does not detract one whit from the accuracy of his observation. This applies not only to war, but also to demonizing races, ethnic groups, and religions. Look at the bolded section - is that not what Trump has been since he began campaigning for president? He has been demonizing minorities and religions at every turn…and attacking anyone who said otherwise by “denouncing the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger”.

But when it comes to the white racists of the Deep South, blacks have been demonized ever since they were freed. I’m quite sure you are familiar with how the lynchings were sometimes used for entertainment wherein mothers would bring their children to “enjoy” the show…

…but it’s at that point that you have to ask yourself, were those children already evil? Did they already know that what they were watching was evil, especially when then lynching was being committed by their own family members whom they loved and respected and looked up to as role models? No?

As those children grow, at what point, then, do they realize that what they are doing is wrong and evil in every respect? Especially given that all their friends and family and elders are still as racist as before? You’ve heard of “mob mentality” wherein otherwise good people find themselves doing things that they would never otherwise do? This, then, is “mob mentality” reinforced by social and familial pressure not over hours or days, but over many generations. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced mob mentality (I did, in a setting that had nothing to do with racism), but when you’re in it, you honestly don’t realize how wrong your actions are…not until you’re outside of the mob and its influence upon you. And it’s at that point that you (being in your own mind a good person) look at what you’ve done and wonder just how it was that you did such things.

All this does not excuse for a moment the wrong and the evil committed by racists. What this means is that a person doesn’t necessarily have to be evil in order to commit an evil act.

Written by

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

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