What do we do when our President (or a mayor, governor, or pastor) says and defends something that is full of hate speech, white supremacy, and prejudice?
Here are some (unfinished, incomplete) thoughts on how we at The Table think about and approach leaders who espouse and support racism.
1. Racism is connected to fear and anger
Racism fuels and funds much of the anger and fear that run the world. Advertisers, politicians, and corporations all know this. In this way, racism (personal and systemic) is one way the ancient gods of Baal and Molech inhabit the fabric of our culture. Baal and Molech imprisoned and reinforced anger and fear 2,000 years ago; scapegoating through dehumanizing racist white supremacy does the same now.
2. Racism is connected to increasing diversity
America’s population is quickly moving from a Euro-centric Caucasian hegemony to a more diverse, global south majority. No longer a “melting pot” of people acting and accommodating to white Protestant norms and values, America is becoming a bricolage of diverse and divergent cultures that preserve their distinctions.
This contributes to white people experiencing a displacement from the cultural center. When white people feel disenfranchised their white supremacy intensifies and blatant xenophobia becomes hostile and violent. We are seeing this now in America.
3. We hate being called racist
We (white people) are often more offended at being called racist than we are at actually being racist. The lengths we will go to defend, justify, deflect, rationalize, and reframe what counts as racist or white supremacy is impressive. Allegations and accusations of being racist are mostly met with offense and counter-attacks. But what if persons of color understand better the racialization of America than white people? What if others can see our sin in ways we can’t?
4. It is tempting to scapegoat and villianize
Recently, President Trump made a series of comments that have been categorized as racist (i.e. “send her back”). It is tempting in moments like this to scapegoat and villainize our President as though he alone is what’s wrong.
But this does two unhelpful things: It lets us off the hook for having to repent. If I can blame him, then he’s what’s wrong, not me. Secondly, if we scapegoat one person we can get the impression that one person is an aberration or outlier. But Trump isn’t alone; he is revealing what has always been the heart of America. We are a country built (literally) on the backs of stolen, enslaved bodies. We own and live on land we obtained through rape, murder, lying, cheating, and genocide.
Trump intensifies and clarifies who we are and have always been. He is not “the problem,” he is a mirror revealing America’s soul.
5. Words really do matter
Words matter; language is how we make sense of our world and relationships. Racist, white supremacist language is inherently violent and dehumanizing. We focus on foreign terrorists, but the single greatest threat in America today are white supremacists who take courage and permission from increasingly racialized, hostile speech.
White supremacy (and all its friends: colonialism, xenophobia, racism, slavery, patriarchy, predatory economic systems, greed, lust, etc.) is the greatest threat facing our world today and it’s not even close.
6. I am sad and angry and sorry
As a white Christian pastor I can’t even put into words how sad and angry I am that my faith is being exploited to fuel this nationalistic debauchery. My people (white, self-professed Christians) continue to enable and embolden hate and violence.
I am sorry. The greatest temptation for me is to look at the racists who grab the headlines and assure myself that I’m not like them. “I’m an advocate, I’m woke, I’m one of the good white people.” This, friends, is spiritual death for me. The only way through I am convinced is to take responsibility and ownership for how WE (not they) are complicit in what’s wrong with the world, to repent, to work to make restitution and amends. This is how we are committed to leading our community here at The Table.