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The complex calculus of negating racism

  • June 8, 2022

We hear and read a lot about critical race theory (CRT). Most of it is raises serious concerns. The idea of CRT, as I understand it, is to teach young children that white people have always had a privileged place in society and that people of colour have paid the price for that supposed racial supremacy.

But it goes further, which is the real problem: continuing the stereotype that even today all whites are oppressors and all people of colour are victims.

CRT creates permanent victims and permanent oppressors based on skin colour, religion or ethnicity. Rather than breaking the cycle of division, it extends it. Small children left to their own have no prejudice in their little hearts. It’s usually we adults who make them prejudiced.

While CRT should be opposed, I worry the entire topic of racism’s toxic past will also get buried as an unnecessary reminder of something that some believe no longer exists. Teens, for example, need to know about history …the good and the bad … to at least try to stop it from happening again. It shouldn’t be used to shame any group but to simply state historical facts.

Today’s German youth did not slaughter Jews but they need to know of their country’s murderous past for no other reason that if it happened once it could happen again.

Racism is ancient. It springs from a deep historical well of lynching, genocides and barbaric attacks. It begins with the fear of the “other.”

It is also anti-Christian. One of Christ’s greatest teachings is that everyone is our neighbour. Even the Samaritans — the object of derision in Biblical times. Other faiths have similar teaching about how to treat others but clearly it has rarely gotten through.

Look at the number of groups that have been massacred since the beginning of the 20th century: the Jews of Europe, the Armenians, Tutsis, Croats, Serbs, Ukrainians (today and in the past) and millions of others who died for no good reason.

The vein of murderous racism still bubbles up from time to time even in such relatively tolerant countries as Canada and the United States

In June 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette took his hatred of Muslims to a Quebec City mosque where he killed six and wounded five others. Reports stemming from his police interrogation tell of a man who was worried refugees would kill his family. His reasoning was delusional but deadly.

Peyton Gendron is the racist maniac whois alleged in May to have killed 10 Black Americans in a Buffalo grocery store. He planned his attack well in advance and was inspired by other mass killings against racial minorities. If he had not been stopped he planned to continue his killing spree elsewhere. He is what racism looks like when it goes to an extreme.

Dylan Roof shot and killed nine Black members of a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015. When he entered the men and women there welcomed him as a brother. What makes his case even more disturbing is what he wrote after his grotesque deed:

“I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”

Then there is the detainment of Japanese Americans and Canadians on the west coast during the Second World War. Note that those of German background were never detained on the east coast of either country. Yet despite this overt racist policy, the sons of these detainees fought with their brother Canadians and Americans in Europe.

All of this must be learned or otherwise the teaching of history becomes a sanitized joke.

None of this means that white people today are inherently racist. Nor does it mean that institutional racism is with us to the extent it was even a generation ago. When you look around a city like Toronto today you see groups of young people together representing all races. For many of us race has become a non-issue.

Interracial marriages are no longer considered taboo. A good example of love conquering all.

We see much progress but that doesn’t blot out the past.

Teaching this history will take great imagination and incredible intelligence. It needs to be taught so as not to make innocent generations guilty of the sins of their fathers.

Nor should it leave former victims bitter and resentful. Doing that will make calculus seem like a breeze.

(Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register.)

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