I was born in Texas. I was raised in Mississippi. I live in Tennessee. I am not racist.
If, by that criteria, you think I am, well…bless your heart.
The recent event in Charleston, South Carolina, at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, has caused the debate, discussion, and accusations of racism in America to heat up. It’s being bantered about at great length in the media, and talking heads are stopping just short of reaching across the desk to strangle their opponent. The media, and even some of our national and state leaders, see a problem. It seems as though they’ll not stop until tension has escalated and we’re all staring at our TV screens, wringing our hands and hoping someone will save us.
History is a Teacher
The popular solution, it seems, is to rid the public square of all things Confederate. Dixie, the Rebel Flag, and bronze busts of Confederate Army generals are being blamed. Apparently, if these things aren’t displayed and revered, then people like Dylann Roof won’t walk in shoot black people because…well…they’re black.
For the record, I am against the public display of the Confederate flag on public property and at national and state facilities. I am not, however, in favor of erasing our history. By that, I mean . our collective history as a nation. We need to know our history, if for no other reason that we won’t repeat it. Forgetting our history and wiping it from public view will not benefit us. It can only hurt us, and may doom us to go down that road again.
The Cesspool known as the South
The other popular solution seems to be to cast an permanent pall onto the South and its people, writing the region off as permanently cast into the mold of racism. The usual mode of those who stereotype Southerners is to portray us as ultraconservative, non-progressive, dim-witted folks who can’t catch up to the rest of the nation. We’re portrayed as backwards, uneducated types who just don’t get it. We have a Southern drawl and eat everything fried. We are the problem, it seems, with the rest of the nation.
Jonah Goldberg, writing in the National Review, calls it “anti-South bigotry.” In his article, he states, “There are few subjects that ignite more casual, uninformed bigotry and condescension from elites in this nation than Dixie.” Phrases like “cesspool of hate” and “the enemy of all that is decent and good” are quoted in his article as observations about the South. While Goldberg does redeem the South in his article, it is apparent that a less than favorable attitude towards the South exists in those Northern elitists.
Racism, or Racist
Regardless of what the media and others would have us do, I’ll go out on the proverbial limb and say that there is no institutional, endemic, or pandemic racism in America. This nation has worked hard to make racial equality part of its laws, policies, procedures, and public life. We have come a long way. Regardless, racists are plenty. There are those who hate a man because of the color of his skin, who think their race is superior to those who look different. Removing war relics and changing history will not stop these people and their ilk.
As I said earlier, I’m not a racist. I worship with African-Americans and Hispanics. I have friends who are Muslim. My son lives with an Asian. I don’t base anything on ethnicity or the color of skin. On the flip side of the coin, I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to fear for my life, or to be treated differently, or to be refused service. Regardless, I will not be part of treating someone differently because of who they are or what they look like.
The Ultimate Solution
The ultimate solution – the one which supersedes the ones mentioned earlier – is the gospel. We are – all of us – created in the image of God and we are called to love each other as Christ loved us. You and I, as unholy and wretched as we are, receive the love of Christ without condition. To love Christ means we’re to love others – even a racist like Dylann Roof.
The people in Charleston are doing just that. Instead of accusations and riots and more hate, they cling to unity and forgiveness and love, the very thing the Apostle Paul calls us to do in 1 Corinthians. For the folks who want to blame history, or the character of Southerners, it is difficult to comprehend the one change that will solve the problem of senseless acts of racial violence. It’s a deep-seated, transparent, life-altering change of the heart.