Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To my Republican friends, a note on race

Too often, I end up in conversations about race and politics that end up a free-for-all about which of the two major parties does more to appeal to modern racism. It's a circular argument, and I think it does more to block progress on the topic than it does to help.

So, here's my own small and meager attempt to break through.

I acknowledge that, for much of its history, the Democratic Party has been the party of white racism.

I believe that white racism is probably the single most destructive force in American history.

I acknowledge that it was Democrats who kept anti-lynching bills at bay for much of the 20th century.

I acknowledge that it was Democrats who kept civil rights bills at bay for much of the 20th century.

I acknowledge that LBJ said and did racist things, and sometimes voted for racist legislation.

I acknowledge the Dixiecrats were an offshoot of the Democrats.

I acknowledge that Robert Byrd was at one time a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

I acknowledge that on occasion, there are those in the Democratic Party who exploit racial solidarity in cynical ways, for personal or political gain. I acknowledge that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have sometimes earned the cynicism they're offered as a result.

In short, I acknowledge that the left side of the political spectrum has a problem, historically, with racism — and that this is true because America, historically, has a problem with racism.

And I acknowledge that I (and many on my side) are quick to see racism on your side and much more forgiving when we detect it among our putative allies.

To whatever extent I am party to these sins: I repent.

I cannot control or even influence how you discuss and approach race. But do not let my own approach harden your heart so that a productive conversation is impossible. I acknowledge my errors, and those I am heir to.

And I hope someday, the conversations we have on this topic can be productive, full of reflection, instead of never-ending attempts to assign blame to somebody else. Wisdom begins with humility — knowing how little we know, knowing that we, and those who came before us, have often fallen short.

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