Anyone with a heart has been outraged at what transpired this weekend during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans alike have spoken out about the blatant racism that’s stepped forward from the shadows onto our television screens, the front pages of our newspapers and on our social media feeds.
But how often do we speak up against more minor forms of racism and bigotry?
I’m often put off by the overuse of the racist label by many on the left. Shakedown artists seeking money and fame more than justice and equality have caused many conservatives to brush off every cry of racism as just another liberal talking point.
But I ask fellow conservatives to consider the testimony of Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., — a black conservative born and raised in the South — the floor of the United States Senate just last year. He detailed multiple instances where he has been the victim of racial profiling both at home and in the nation’s capital, including three occasions where the Capitol Police singled him out, not knowing he was and is a sitting senator.
Another speech that improved my understanding of what it means to be a black man in America, was from a work of fiction, but was powerfully portrayed on prime time television.
Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown plays the part of Randall Pearson on the critically acclaimed NBC drama, “This Is Us.” In one episode, takes his biological father, William, to buy clothes. William had participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Randall had been raised by a white couple, with white siblings, and felt the need to explain that his experiences hadn’t always been easy.
Randall told William that the security guard in the store they were visiting had specifically moved to be able to watch the two of them closely. He lamented that he would have to show ID when he paid, even though he is a successful businessman, and it was unlikely that any other customer would be asked to do the same. He ended by saying he chooses to ignore tons of stuff just like this every day — not to let others off the hook, but to keep him from always being angry with the world around him.
It truly hurts my heart to see such hatred expressed as we’ve just seen on the University of Virginia campus. This is, after all, 2017.
However, as ugly and vile as their public expressions are, the thoughts and prejudices in any of our hearts are just as vile in the sight of God. Jesus Christ died for all mankind. No nationality, skin color, age, sex, economic status or education level was exempted in His perfect sacrifice, and I believe all of us need the salvation that He alone offers.
On the other hand, I vigorously defend their right to assemble and speak freely their hideous beliefs. How could I? Because I love my country and I love our Constitution that protects that speech. The First Amendment isn’t to protect speech you agree with, it’s to protect the speech you find repulsive.
Yet, we don’t have the right to riot, loot, destroy or be violent towards others while assembling; and law enforcement has been right in breaking up these scrums and arresting those breaking the law.
In a way, these bigots did our country a service. Not by “protecting” a Civil War statue, but by reminding us that the worst forms of racism still exist in America.
Have things improved since the dark days of the Civil Rights Movement? Absolutely. But we must remain vigilant, ever shining the light of love and truth in our own hearts, always being mindful of subtle ways that prejudice and racial insensitivity creep in on us all.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” has yet to be fully realized, but I long for it to be.
J. Brandon Thompson of Columbia is a pastor and former chair of the Adair County Republican Party. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.