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[Cold War Letter 27, Jan, 1962]
It seems to me that the darkness that has troubled you, and the same darkness which many good people and souls of prayer suffer these day, comes from one very serious source. Without wanting to be in conflict with the truth and with the will of God, we are actually going against God’s will and His teaching.
Many … make the mistake of thinking that the problems of our time are very clear-cut, that there is no difficulty in seeing the truth, and that since the just cause is very evident, we need only to apply force to achieve justice. But precisely this illusion that everything is “clear” is what is blinding us all. It is a serious temptation, and it is a subtle form of pride and worldly love of power and revenge.
Thomas Merton. Witness to Freedom: Letters in Times of Crisis. William H. Shannon, editor (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994): 79.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I speak out against racism on a pretty regular basis. And you probably know I’ve made some people mas by doing so. “People like Helen Losse seem to me to drag us backwards with the way they approach the matter of racism.” said one writer.
Others have tried to define racism in a manner that makes it appear less unique than it actually is. Renaissance Guy wrote a blog entry to that effect recently to which I replied,
“1. Racism is alive and well in the US.
2. Racism is America’s original sin.
3. All white people are racists or recovering racists. The choice is up to the individual. Either you are a part of the problem (racist) or a part of the solution (recovering racist). You have to be “born again.” (Not as a Democrat or a Republican but as a recovering racist).”
“…let me explain one more time. Racism is about more than skin color, about more than ethnicity. It is about the white (male) position always being right–always having to be right. It is about refusing to consider that the way black people have lived (in this country) since the beginning of this country has anything to do with what’s going on now. It is about always putting the words of the founding fathers (Old, rich, white men) above the words of black people. It is about refusing to believe that what a black man says could be right, even if that man is the President of the US. It is about pretending you are talking about policy differences, when ever since the slaves were set free it has really been about “forty acres and a mule.” It is about the same “sharing the wealth” that has been spoken of by black leaders for years. It is about falling back on cries of “socialist” when we all know it’s about keeping the black and the poor down unless they play by white man rules.”
Today I came across two instances that help illustrate my point: White people cannot re-define racism and make it go away. I print both with permission.
The first is a statement by Robert T. Canipe, “”I understand racism to be a subconscious indoctrination instead of a conscious choice.” Maybe that will help explain why I say white people are either racists or recovering racists. Being racist has nothing to do with our individual families being overly racist, which they may not have been, and everything to do with American society favoring whiteness, which is racism, over which we have no control. The only way to stop being racist is to become a recovering racist. I say that because I am one. The society in which I live still favors whiteness in ways that I can choose to overlook but that black people can’t. A recovering racist listens to what black people say about racism and acts accordingly.
The second came in an e-mail from M. Quinn.
The Courage of a Former American President
While many Americans remain entirely apathetic with regard to engaging in any authentic discussion on the matter of racism, and for all intents and purposes are clearly petrified to embark upon a discourse on this alleged taboo subject; former President Jimmy Carter has presented himself as a unquestionably courageous guardian of the truth; as he cited that most of the vitriol, and utter contempt waged against President Obama has less to do with the president’s health care proposal, but is squarely rooted in racism.
In fact, there are some within the United States of America who truly believe that a black man does not have the intelligence, fortitude or the right to be the president of the United States.
Mr. Carter’s intrepid position has lead everyone from politicians to the mainstream media to attempt to dismiss his position as completely inaccurate. However, we must ask ourselves, that if the former president’s statements were patently off the mark, then why are terms such as “Afro-socialism” being employed in a utterly bigoted description of President Obama, coupled with signs depicting the president as Adolf Hitler; while others stating we want our country back. We must be very careful in attempting to assign these actions to merely a few extremist, while once again, missing a prime opportunity to have a genuine conversation on the legacy of racism within our nation.
It is undeniable that America has a protracted history of viewing African Americans as third class citizens at best, even when an individual has risen to the heights of an American president; and it is this contaminated mind-set which must be addressed in the 21st century. Unfortunately, many Americans continue their attempt to deny this fact, and proceed with their daily lives as if we can merely ignore the decadent history of racism in our society. The inability of most Americans to first wholly acknowledge America’s decadent past and similarly engage in an honest dialog on the subject of racism, presents the American populous as clearly apathetic at best, and utter cowards at worst in regards to genuinely addressing this social malady.
An authentic discourse regarding racism within American society has been a forbidden prospect for much too long. We must applaud former President Jimmy Carter for his courage, and not remain apathetic regarding engaging in a genuine dialog on racism in our society.
Moreover, courageous individuals such as former President Jimmy Carter must be celebrated for their undeniable valor. It is essential, that “We the People” become boldly unwavering in our pursuit to reverse the scourge of racism in our nation, and similarly commence a national campaign toward implementing sustainable solutions.
Equally, if we as a nation are ever going to achieve that status of true greatness, then we must be courageous enough to deal with matters pertaining to race and racism, without seeking the artificial cloak of denial as some sort of safe haven.
M. Quinn is the Founder of the Campaign to Remove the Veil, which advocates incorporating a comprehensive study of racism into the academic system of American society, and making it a prerequisite for graduation. He specializes in social, political, and historical analysis and commentary.
How do we live in creation? Do we relate to it as a place full of “things” we can use for whatever need we want to fulfill and whatever goal we wish to accomplish? Or do we see creation first of all as a sacramental reality, a sacred space where God reveals to us the immense beauty of the Divine?
As long as we only use creation, we cannot recognise its sacredness because we are approaching it as if we are its owners. But when we relate to all that surrounds us as created by the same God who created us and as the place where God appears to us and calls us to worship and adoration, then we are able to recognise the sacred quality of all God’s handiwork.
Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).
Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God’s faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.
Hat tip: Tim Nichols
My poem, “Where Light Is Going,” is in the Current Issue of Hobble Creek Review. Thanks to editor, Justin Evans.
How can we not lose our souls when everything and everybody pulls us in the most different directions? How can we “keep it together” when we are constantly torn apart?
Jesus says: “Not a hair of your head will be lost. Your perseverance will win you your lives” (Luke 21:18-19). We can only survive our world when we trust that God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. We can only keep it together when we believe that God holds us together. We can only win our lives when we remain faithful to the truth that every little part of us, yes, every hair, is completely safe in the divine embrace of our Lord. To say it differently: When we keep living a spiritual life, we have nothing to be afraid of.