The Governor of Virginia has made a public statement which implied that it would be permissible to murder a baby who has somehow survived the attempts of abortionists to end his life in the womb, and has been born alive. This shocking revelation provoked a storm of protest and many calls for his immediate resignation, as a person who had shown himself to be unfit for public office
However he has so far resisted the pressure to resign; and since the commission of the original offense, evidence of a really criminal nature has emerged — namely, an old picture that supposedly proves he is a “racist”. This could mean the end of his political career.
Racism seems to be the one crime that is unforgivable these days. The very allegation that one is a racist can completely ruin one’s life! Now it appears that, to many people, the murder of innocent and helpless babies for hire is no crime at all; but having once dressed up in blackface or a white sheet is an outrage not to be born! What’s wrong with this picture?
Prejudice versus Dislike
Let’s begin with the fact that all people have prejudices and things that they dislike about other people groups. These two things must be distinguished; for prejudice is always wrong; while one may dislike things that are really characteristic of a certain class of people without fault.
A prejudice is a “pre-judgment” of the character of a person or persons. It is an unwarranted disposition to view others, who are in some respect different from ourselves, in a negative way, and to treat them accordingly. When a customer enters a store and is served with reluctance and rudeness because of his ethnicity, this is an expression of prejudice — in particular, what we used to call “racial prejudice”.
Prejudice expresses itself in such things as mocking, disparaging, and otherwise abusing members of the despised class. For example, poor people are often prejudiced against rich people as a group, just because they are rich, and as a result indulge in hateful words and acts against them. English people often display their disgust with French people in the same way.
General Statements that are True
But it is not wrong to recognize and sometimes to state the fact that a particular nation is generally lacking in some virtues, when this is true. An example is the statement of the Apostle Paul to Titus, his apprentice, concerning the people of Crete to whom he was being sent:
“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, ‘The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.’ This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…” (Tit 1:12-13)
This unflattering description was not a gratuitous expression of “racism” or mere prejudice on Paul’s part. He had had personal experience working among them; and found that it was true – not in every particular case — but as a generalization. One of their own, a poet, is quoted in proof of their bad character. Not all of them were infected with all these vices; but they were common enough among them to make Paul’s allegation generally true. It was necessary to prepare Titus for the problems he would face in his new parish, and how to handle them.
Racial Prejudice versus Racism
Racial prejudice is no different from any other prejudice. We all have them; and it would be impossible to eradicate them from society. Prejudices may lead to crimes; but they are not in themselves criminal. They are immoral. They are sins. But they are not crimes.
Racism is another matter. Racism is the belief that one’s own race is superior to other races; and that this supposedly superior race is entitled to treat other races as a lower form of life — even to destroy them, in the interest of making the world better. It is based on the evolutionary dogmas of the survival of the fittest, and of the development of man from animals. Superior races are to inferior ones as the first humans were to the apes from which they came. To treat them like animals is therefore right and proper. To make use of them as we make use of horses or cows, to kill them whenever it is useful for us to do so — these are the logical consequences of racist doctrine.
White and Black Racism
To call one a racist because he may be racially prejudiced is to evidence a different kind of prejudice. Accusing a person of racism suggests another species of racial prejudice. It is usually people of African descent who use the term, and it is usually applied to white people. White people are assumed to believe in the superiority of their own race and their right to lord it over black people. This is rarely, though sometimes true. It is certainly not true of most white people.
To believe, without evidence, that it is true of all of us is at least prejudicial and unjust, and at worst, it is black racism. To charge it upon any of us who evidences the least hint of racial prejudice (or none at all) is slander, defamation, and incitement to violence; just as the ravings of the Nazis against the Jews were slander and defamation and incitement to violence! It makes no difference that the Nazis were in a position of power and therefore able to dispose of the Jews as they wished. There are places, such as Zimbabwe and now South Africa where the opposite is true, and racial prejudice of the opposite kind has given rise to a kind of racist dogma that has been used to justify black people in robbing and killing white men en masse.
Doubtless, it is the intention and the goal of black racists in America to overthrow what it sees to be a white racist culture. Those people of European descent who are afraid of doing anything that might invite the accusation of racism are doing all of us a disservice. They ought to confront the evil; exposing it as a weapon employed by those who would dominate us, if they could.
It is important to draw the distinction between racial prejudice and racism. It is important to point out the ineradicable fact of prejudice in the sinful human heart. It is important that we defend the right of all people to make informed judgments about the character of their own and other social groups and to state them publicly. It is important to take this weapon out of the hands of those who are as racially prejudiced as we are, before this country is torn apart, and quite possibly by a bloody civil war.
Howard Douglas King
February 3, 2019