Heart-sick, Not Surprised (345)

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.
President Lyndon B. Johnson

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on; 
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Kris Kristofferson, Jesus Was a Capricorn

Shocked, but not surprised was my reaction upon hearing the news of what happened in Charlottesville this past weekend. Having lived there for five years, I knew all the parks and streets mentioned in the news. Kelly and I used to take our then young children to play in one of the parks where many of the white supremacists gathered late Saturday. It was right next to the mission church I served. I’m heart-sick and disgusted, but I’m not surprised. This “dog whistling racism” has been emerging for some time now as a replacement for the old Jim Crow. The rise of the so-called “alt-right” in some people’s minds has legitimized what most people (we presumed) thought were by now abhorrent beliefs and behaviors. With their Hitler salutes, proclamations of white racial superiority, and hate-filled xenophobia, they’ve recently found a welcome refuge in too many main-stream political conversations.

Home-grown terrorist groups, which, let’s not fool ourselves, these white supremacists are, were removed from the “terrorist watch list” this February, even though there have been over 30 terrorist attacks by these groups since 2001. During that time, twice as many people have been killed by these groups than by any other religious or ethnic group. Their removal from the “terrorist watch list” clearly has emboldened them.

I’ve seen other white people look uncomfortable upon seeing who these messengers of hate and white supremacy are, while also slowing nodding affirming heads to much of their political message. So, I must ask: Can we really separate the message from the messengers? If a person’s views on current issues facing our society are the same as David Duke’s or Richard Spencer’s, then what does it say about that person’s real convictions? Can they honestly state it’s just a coincidence that they agree with much of the alt-right’s political agenda, but, you know, just not all that hate stuff?

I understand why some white people are angry for being excluded from the prosperity others experience. I grew up in Appalachia where life’s always been hard, and good, safe jobs have never been plentiful. But anger at Jews, African-Americans, and Latinos is misplaced. They’re simply the people white supremacists blame for problems caused by the economic and cultural changes we’re experiencing. They’re just emotionally and politically “picking their pockets.” It’s time for white people to look in the mirror and tell ourselves the truth. We don’t have a problem with religious or ethnic minorities in our culture. We have a white person problem. And white people, especially those of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ, must be determined and truthful enough to fix it.



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