Racism Isn’t Over

That tweet reminds me again of how anti-Christian contemporary Republicanism is. The notion that racism can “end” misreads a core Christian truth about human nature. Our vulnerability to hatred, condescension, fear of others, resentment, and generalizations about “the other” are intrinsic to what it means to be human. Racism, like greed or envy or pride, will never end. We are all always susceptible to these flaws, to what Christians have called “original sin,” and which is perhaps better expressed in the concept of the “The Human Propensity To Fuck Things Up.” Of course, these core sentiments that are part of our primate inheritance can wax and wane, they can be unleashed or restrained, and they can be instantiated in institutions and laws and customs, or not. But hatred is for ever. It knows no geographical or historical boundaries. It is intrinsic to being human, which means it is intrinsic to being American.

What Parks and so many others did was chip away at the legal architecture of institutionalized hatred and loathing. This matters – because we humans are an impressionable herd and can be encouraged to acts and thoughts of great evil by authoritative permission. So slavery was not just an evil in itself; but an incalculable fomenter of evil. Ditto segregation.

Ending these abominations can severely reduce the lazy hatred of tribe for the other – but they will never extinguish it from the human soul. The same should be said for ending the legal architecture that kept gay people in the category of “the other”. I have no illusions whatsoever that gay kids will ever be free from the taunts of others – because they are so very different at a time in life when groupthink is so overwhelming and cruel. Which is why the only long-term effective response to these hatreds is forgiveness, not revenge, to escape the cycle by self-esteem, not more anger, however justified. Eradicating hatred is a utopian folly, still entertained on the left (as in the absurdity of hate crime laws), but now also embraced by the right as a way to deny any power to history or to the fallenness of humankind. It is a Christian heresy. Which is why it has taken root in today’s “exceptionalist” far right.

For them, simply being American is itself absolution from sin. I remember once hearing Newt Gingrich actually claim that America had abolished envy. He was serious. And how can one forget that Michele Bachmann truly believed that the Founding Fathers ended slavery in their lifetimes? Once a country has replaced God as an object of worship, it can, of course, do no wrong. And history must be rewritten to account for that. This is a fantasy and a lie, and conservatism, properly speaking, should have nothing to do with it.