Because of me.
The story goes something like this. In the early 20th century, The Times, a newspaper in London, sent a request to famous authors asking them to reply to the following question. “What is wrong with the world?” Pages and pages were sent back by many authors, but the most important and most resonating reply was only 2 words. GK Chesterton, a Catholic convert, who might be most well-known for his “Father Brown” novels, replied with those two words.
His response to the question of
“What is wrong with the world?”
Over the last few months, and especially after this past week and the events in Charlottesville, I have heard people ask the question, “How does white supremacy still exist?” or “How is racism still a thing in 2017?” I will take a page from Mr. Chesterton, although I will need 3 words.
“How does white supremacy still exist?”
“How is racism still a thing?”
“Because of me.”
It is easy to condemn the type of racism that we have seen in Charlottesville. It is easy to see torches and Nazi and Confederate flags and say it is wrong and evil (or it should be easy to say it is wrong and evil, but let’s not digress and express our disgust with Trump or many of the evangelical “Christian” leaders who support Trump). I want to get at something deeper and harder to condemn. Racism did not solely exist in a bubble in Charlottesville, VA last weekend. It did not just appear when nine African-Americans were shot in their church basement after welcoming a young white man in to join them. Racism is not just prevalent when one individual or small group of individuals say and do things that the clear majority of us disagree with and disavow. Likewise, racism did not end with the Civil War or with the Civil Rights Act.
Racism persists today, in many forms and areas of everyday life. This is the racism that we need to learn more about and denounce.
It is the racism that as a white person, I don’t want to see or admit even exists.
This takes self-reflection and honesty. It means admitting how we, (I’ll switch to “I”), how I condone, benefit from and continue to allow it, even when I verbally say I don’t agree with it. This is the kind of racism that , I believe GK Chesterton was admitting to, because it was then and still is now, one of the problems with the world, with his answer of “I am.” This is what I mean when I respond with the answer, “Because of me.”
Because of me. When I don’t listen to the issues that people of color are talking about, racism continues to exist “because of me.” When I do listen to the issues that people of color talk about, but don’t take it seriously or dismiss it as not true, racism exists, “because of me.” When I do listen to the issues that people of color talk about and do take it seriously, then just file the information away and don’t let it change me, racism exists, “because of me.” When I remain silent about the way the world works to the benefit of some, including me, knowing it is also to the detriment of others, racism still exists, “because of me.” When I tell myself that I can’t make a difference and the problem is bigger than just me, racism still exists, “because of me.” When I give more authority to, believe the opinion of, and am more comfortable listening to someone who looks like me over someone who is different from me, racism still exists, “because of me.”
Jesus once said it is not what goes into a person that defiles, but it is what comes out of a person that defiles. I think there is truth to that. I need to be more concerned about what comes out of my mouth, or perhaps even more, what comes out of my life, including when what comes out is silence. Perhaps if I were, there would be less evil, less ugly, less shit for others to consume, which might lead to less of all of that being produced by others. But it doesn’t happen when I simply condemn what it obvious and how others are wrong with the world.
I first need to look at myself and acknowledge that racism and evil exist in the world, “because of me.”
Thanks for reading. Don’t be a jerk.