What a Life! by Father Wilmer Todd
Two weekends ago, citizens in our country and around the world experienced something that we thought was in our past: torch-bearing white supremacists shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans at the citizens of Charlottesville, VA; a car driven by a Nazi sympathizer killing one person and seriously injuring 19 others; people carrying Nazi flags and giving the Nazi salute.
We saw angry white men armed with bats and submachine guns wanting to go back to the days when one person could own another. In the midst of all this, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said, “This is not who we are.” Unfortunately, this is who we are. It is not who we should be.
Diplomat Edmund Burke (1729-1797) once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We have made some progress in addressing racial prejudice in our country but we still have a long way to go. We have to recognize that any type of racial prejudice is a spiritual cancer on our individual souls and our collective soul as a nation.
What causes people to be racist? Jennifer Richeson, a Yale University social psychologist says, “In some ways, it’s really simple. People learn to be whatever their society and culture teaches them. We often assume that it takes parents actively teaching their kids for them to be racist. The truth is that unless parents actively teach kids not to be racists, they will be. This is not the product of some deep-seated, evil heart that is cultivated. It comes from the environment, the air all around us.” An interesting observation.
We can develop an “us-them” mentality that clouds our basic outlook on life. We can look at people as in our “group” and those who are not in our “group.” Then we pass judgement: those other people are not as good as we are or they have a certain deficiency. If we do nothing to change our distorted outlook and condemn our prejudices as Burke suggested, nothing will change. We cannot count on children to change things. Most alt-right activists who triggered the violence in Charlottesville were young white men.
Unfortunately, President Trump did not condemn the evil that existed with the arrival of the KKK, the Nazis, and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville. It was only after reactions from members of both parties and the business community that he finally made a strong statement. However, he took back much of what he said the following Tuesday. Let’s face it, racism existed before the Trump administration.
However, by having staff members who are known segregationists plus his own rhetoric of putting down certain minorities, he has given the bigots and those who seek to do evil encouragement to “come out of the closet.”
He also said in his second speech that “we all salute the same flag.” No, we don’t. Some are saluting the Nazi flag, some salute the Rebel flag. Not everyone salutes the American flag – the symbol of freedom and equality for all peoples no matter who they are or where they are from. When I was listening to people talking about these recent occurrences, some said that all groups were prejudice.
Saying that all whites are racists is wrong; saying that all blacks are racists is wrong, etc. Saying that all KKK groups are racists is correct; all neo-Nazi groups are racists is correct; all white supremacist groups are racists is correct. We can find some “bad apples” in every group. However, it’s the intention of the group that makes it evil. Jesus, Mary and Joseph and his apostles were all Jews. However, Jesus was open to everyone even the pagans that came to him for help. Jesus loved everyone even the unlovable. Then he gave us the great commandment.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Let us follow Jesus.