On Racism And Other Evils

In an interview that was part of the BBC 2005 documentary on Auschwitz there is a chilling interview with a person (then quite old) who took part in the shooting of Jewish men, women, and children in Ukraine.  He said that he felt nothing when shooting them, “because my hatred toward the Jews was too great”, and this was because he felt his family had been treated badly by local Jews.  When asked by the interviewer (with some heat) what in God’s Name the Jews he shot had to do with the Jews who supposedly mistreated his family, he simply said, “Nothing.  But to us, they were Jews”.  Apparently, for him as he was at that time, no other crime was required.  Being a Jew was sufficient crime enough.

Perhaps also playing into this was the Nazi myth, believed by many, that the Jews were responsible for the “stab in the back” which resulted in the German surrender ending the First World War.  Apart from this stab in the back, the narrative runs, Germany would have won that war.  They only lost it because of the Jews.  The Jews, so the larger narrative ran, were responsible both for Bolshevism in Russia and free market capitalism in America.  Forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were circulated in an attempt to prove and document such a global Jewish conspiracy.  Here we have a prime example of racism:  an individual was judged or evaluated (in this case, negatively) not on the basis of their individual actions and views, but solely on the basis of belonging to a particular group.

We can see the same kind of evaluation functioning in the case of other races as well.  Blacks in America in the early part of the last century were evaluated in a certain negative way solely on the basis of their race.  Chinese persons in the West were similarly evaluated (or rather “devalued”) on the sole basis of being Chinese.  Such racism did not always result in negative evaluations—in a former day, many white Americans thought that all blacks had a proclivity for rhythm, music, and athletic prowess.  Examples documenting such evaluations, whether negative or positive, are scarcely required.

We see that such racist evaluations are universal, and that white North Americans are not immune to being similarly evaluated.  In some circles, being white (or worse yet, a white Christian male) is sufficient grounds for denunciation.  As a white Christian male, I am sometimes held responsible for evils such as slavery, though I repudiate slavery and have never owned a slave—nor, to the best of my knowledge, have any of my Canadian or Irish forebears.  Nonetheless I am held responsible by some people for the evils done by other white people.  One wonders why I am not similarly held responsible for the good done by other white people, such as the sheltering of Jews during the Holocaust by white Christians, and such as the work to abolish slavery done by the white William Wilberforce.

Babiy YarThe answer, of course, is that I do not deserve to be credited with those good deeds because those deeds were not mine.  They were done by others, and I am only credited with the good deeds I have actually performed.  In the same way, I suggest that I should only be blamed for the evil deeds I have actually performed or perhaps approved of.  Sharing the same race or nationality of other people, whether they are good or bad, should garner neither praise nor blame.  To evaluate someone solely on the basis of their inclusion in a racial group is racism.

The frequency with which the accusation of racism is made can lead one to think that race is a fundamental concept today.  It is not.  More fundamental is the concept of tribalism—the notion of belonging to a single group or tribe constitutes one’s identity, and the tribe or group may have nothing to do with race.  In Africa different black tribes warred and slaughtered each other because although they belonged to the same race, they belonged to different tribes.  We note that not so long ago the Japanese and the Chinese waged similar warfare against each other.  Racism may be considered a kind of subset of tribalism.

Tribe need not be determined by nationality or ethnicity; it can be also determined by ideology.  Thus the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland waged war against each other, each defining the other negatively on the basis of their religion.  Politics also can provide tribal identity, as Republicans and Democrats take aim at each other, and the woke Left and the reactionary Right come to blows about everything from politics to vaccines to gender inclusivity.

The sad truth is that tribalism—or the temptation to tribalism—can be found in every human heart, lurking there as a terrible and perennial invitation to hatred and violence.  Those who loudly (and often self-righteously) denounce racism may themselves be completely within the iron grip of a tribalism of a different sort—an irony that perhaps will not be discovered by them until the Last Judgment.

One sign of being within the grip of such tribalism is triggered rage (see inset for classic pose), accompanied by a self-righteous certainty that those who disagree are a threat and a menace.  One may not know those other persons at all.  Their actions, their detailed and nuanced views, and even their names may be unknown.  But one knows they belong to the opposing tribe, and that is enough to denounce them and to regard them as dangerous.  The man interviewed by the BBC was a prime example of such tribalism:  all that he knew about the people standing before him waiting to be shot was that they were Jews, people of the wrong tribe.  And that was all he thought he needed to know.  Bang.

We disciples of Jesus need to be on our guard against such tribalism, especially in days of conflict like ours.  Those from different tribes are increasingly vocal about their views—and of about the hostility with which they regard us Christians.  The most fundamental fact about anyone is not his tribe or whether or not he is a Republican, Democrat, white, black, indigenous, Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox—or even whether or not he is a racist.  The most fundamental fact about anyone is that Christ died for them, and that He calls them be our brethren as they repent of their sins (such as racism) and come to Him.  When people are shouting loudly at us (and posting on social media, which is often a form of shouting), this is sometimes hard to remember.  But if we would please the Lord by obeying His command to love our neighbour, it is essential.

Source: No Other Foundation

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