Daryl Grigsby: Embracing truth, practicing love | TheUnion.com

Daryl Grigsby: Embracing truth, practicing love

The Union’s Editorial Board recently opined on the critical race theory debate last week. I found their position described in “Study history, or …“ confusing and vague.

For me the board missed what seems obvious. That is, critical race theory has been hideously reshaped into a tool to fuel white fear and racial division. It is but another example of how every movement to enhance racial justice is met with white backlash.

After George Floyd’s public execution, the nation responded with protests and heartfelt attempts by many whites to examine themselves. Unfortunately, some of white America sought to continue fear and division. Sixty years ago Nina Simone sang, “Backlash Blues,” exposing white resistance to movements for justice. Historian Carol Anderson details the history of backlash in her 2016 book, “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.“

When slaves escaped or revolted, America responded with executions, whippings and torture. The end of the Civil War brought a brief period of Black voting rights and Black elected officials. Through the Compromise of 1877, the Reconstruction was subverted by white violence, deceit and betrayal. Ironically, poor Southern whites benefited more from Black legislative policies than they ever had under the former rule of white planters. When Black soldiers returned from World Wars I and II, veterans in uniform were lynched and beaten to remove any illusions the freedoms they fought for overseas would be realized at home. The civil rights and Black Power movements were followed by the “War on Drugs,” and thus began the mass incarceration of Blacks for crimes, when committed by whites, were overlooked.

Backlash is often present in presidential campaigns. In 1980, Ronald Reagan had his first rallies in Neshoba County, Mississippi, a few miles from where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered 16 years earlier. He proclaimed, “I believe in states’ rights,” understood then as code for white Southern supremacy. In 1988, George Bush elevated the Willie Horton incident to generate fears of Black criminals run amok in America. In 2016, Trump employed so many obvious calls for white nationalism they are too numerous to list. The critical race theory debate is but the most recent example of backlash against movements for change.

Catholic monk and writer Thomas Merton wrote in his 1965 book, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,“ that the racial divide is created by white insecurity and the refusal to listen to the Negro. He wrote, ”the Negro is victimized by the psychological and social conflicts now inherent in white civilization that fears imminent disruption and has no mature insight into the reality of its crisis. White society is purely and simply incapable of really accepting the Negro.“ These are the insights of a white monk living in a monastery in Kentucky. For me the key words of Merton are ”fear“ and ”mature insight.“

The Editorial Board’s commentary ends with the words, “something, something.” A vague “something” is in fact, nothing. We need “something“ more.

We must begin by embracing truth. George Washington threw a tantrum when, after the Revolutionary War, England refused to return escaped slaves to our founding father so he could restore their chains. Truth. At 44 years old, Thomas Jefferson impregnated his 14-year old-slave Sally Hemings, eventually fathering six children. Truth. (The Editorial Board suggests we emulate our founding fathers while recognizing their flaws. We obviously differ in our understanding of the depths of those flaws.)

Every Black person in America who has not emigrated voluntarily from Africa carries the last name of their slave master, and, if they are not “100%” African, their white blood is likely from slave master rape. Truth.

These truths not for shame or guilt or vengeance, but truths to move forward, wiser and stronger, to a better society.

Embracing truth must be be done with love. Ironically, our nation boasts of our Judeo-Christian roots but ignores the fundamental message of love.

To hear many Christians, you would think the central message of the faith and the Bible is “religious freedom.” Ironically, the concept of religious freedom is completely absent from the Bible.

What is not absent, in fact what is central, is love. Pope Francis’ recent letter “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship,” calls for love beyond our family and like-minded friends. He asks that we employ love for others in our social and political engagements, and reminds us that love takes us beyond ourselves and empowers us to work for the good of all.

Embrace truth, practice love; that is something.

Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City.

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