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What are we willing to do about racism?

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Recent white supremacist rallies and public expressions of neo-Nazism have opened old wounds and, at times, created new ones. Racist comments denigrate human dignity, and so to see them on public display is particularly offensive. Who would have thought that such vitriolic beliefs could feed a subculture in a country such as ours — one founded upon the values of liberty and justice for all?

Racist behavior is intrinsically evil and must be denounced always. While most people agree with this statement, it begs a serious and challenging question: what are we willing to do?

Father William Aitcheson published an editorial on the Arlington Catholic Herald website Aug. 21, offering his witness as a former member of the KKK. He spoke of a “bleak” time of his life in which he was filled with anger and hate. He asked forgiveness from anyone who has experienced racism, and he wrote of the mercy and peace Christ offers to those who repent.

In my initial statement responding to the events in Charlottesville, I called for unity. In order to be a unified people, we must first share common values rooted in the Word of God and in our national tradition. Views endorsing white supremacy and racism, for instance, directly contradict Judeo-Christian and American values. A fundamental belief that is self-evident is that all men and women are created equal.

So, when we ask “what are we willing to do,” we know the answer is conversion. Radical conversion will not come through violence, shouting, prejudice, rash judgment or name-calling. While these may be an outlet for, or the result of anger and resentment, they offer no opportunity to change hearts and minds. We must bring Christ to the public square. It was he, after all, who confronted evil, demonstrated power over it and called for daily conversion.

The values of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ are the only hope for our nation. How can we have peace without calling upon the Prince of Peace? How can we have joy without the Source of all joy? How can we have love without Love Incarnate?

So what are we willing to do?

Are we willing to stand as witnesses against racism? We often hear of “systemic racism.” Individuals who have unfair and prejudicial biases form those systems. Though systems cannot be converted, people can. Are we willing to stand up and speak out when we see racism and refuse to cooperate in any unfair treatment of others on the basis of race?

Are we willing to look a white supremacists in the face, and encourage them to embrace Christlike love on a path to conversion? Are we willing to hear their story? Frank Meeink, the former neo-Nazi whose story is told in the movie “American History X,” was interviewed recently and said that white supremacists are filled with fear. Perhaps by understanding their fear we can introduce them to the Lord who puts all fear to rest.

Confronting and eliminating all forms of prejudice and bigotry are not just actions on behalf of minorities who are most often those on the receiving end of anger and hatred; they are also ways for all to realize fully our human dignity. When we build a culture adverse to unfair discrimination, we allow all people to live freely, without fear of oppression, and without inflicting injustice on anyone.

Sadly, the fight against racism may not end soon. Our TV screens and smart phones will continue to show us the evil in the world. We must not simply be observers of current events. With God’s grace, we must be participants in the conversion of a country desperate for the Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ. You and I can be instrumental in creating a future, where there truly is freedom and liberty for all. Respectfully, I ask again, what are we willing to do?

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017