Four days ago, following a heavy snow, two kids from our neighborhood spotted the snow shovels in our garage. One of them already had a shovel, the other didn’t, so he asked if he could borrow ours in order to raise money clearing driveways. Kids offering to shovel driveways in the winter are as ubiquitous as ice cream trucks in the summer, so I said, “Yes, but bring it back in two hours.” They agreed. I went in the house. A moment later my wife came around the corner and saw them taking the other shovel out of our garage. She asked if I’d told them they could, despite the fact that they now had three shovels. They said yes. She shrugged and made them promise to bring the shovels back soon. We haven’t seen them since.
Oh, and one more thing: the kids were African American, as are 3/4ths of our neighbors. The temptation, based on this incident, would be to conclude that “black kids steal.” Fortunately, we have a lot of wonderful black neighbors who we love and who love us, and we’ve paid some great kids over the years to shovel snow and rakes leaves, so we were able to defuse that lie before it blew up in our hearts.
A few days ago, I wrote about an incident that’s still blowing up in America’s heart: a group of white Catholic school kids appeared in a brief video to be mocking a Native American man. Virulent outcries about their disgusting display of racism flooded the internet. Then more footage emerged, showing that the incident wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Was their behavior faultless? Hardly (they’re teenagers), but it was far from the smoking-gun it initially appeared to be.
Then, in the wake of the information that followed, many commentators (and some of my own Facebook friends) concluded that what the students did or didn’t do doesn’t matter. Why? Because they are “white and privileged,” and therefore guilty anyway. (For what it’s worth, not all of the students at Cov Cath are white, and the school serves a largely working class community.)
In other words, some people are arguing that the cure for racism is reverse racism. No. White people who hate black people are racists. French people who hate Chinese people are racists. Chinese people who hate East Indians are racists. Black people who hate Mexicans are racists. (I’ve seen all of the above.) No matter how it’s justified, it’s wrong.
Because the cure for racism is not racism. It never was, and it never will be. Yes, many white people have treated black and indigenous peoples in my country abominably, criminally, and that must continue to be addressed. But loathing white teenagers from Kentucky because they are white is not addressing it.
So why do we persist in believing hate can cure hate?