Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Joe Wilson does not have a racist bone in his body. I have racism in my soul

South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson (R), is the man who cried out “you lie” during President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of congress.

Various folks: my friend and Episcopal blogger Elizabeth Kaeton, NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd, my friend and Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson, President Jimmy Carter - and I - have wondered aloud if there is a racist component to the widespread anger directed at our President. We wondered if Rep. Wilson’s verbal ejaculation was the tip of an ugly racist ice-berg.

Rep. Wilson’s son commented as follows in response to President Jimmy Carter’s assertions.

"There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," said Alan Wilson, an Iraq veteran who is running for state attorney general in South Carolina. "He doesn't even laugh at distasteful jokes. I won't comment on former President Carter, because I don't know President Carter. But I know my dad, and it's just not in him."

And you know - I believe Alan Wilson.

I believe that his knowledge of his dad is just as he says – a certain knowledge that “there is not a racist bone in my dad’s body”.

I do not know Joe Wilson or Alan Wilson.

Their politics are not mine for sure, and I think that Joe Wilson was at the very least discourteous and stupid to cry out “you lie”. (Wise people know when to speak and when to keep silence).

But I know something about myself.

I would want it to be said of me that “there is not a racist bone in his body”.
If that were said I would smile, and then demure.

For I know that unconsciously, or sub-consciously, I am infected by the sin of racism.

It’s there.

I may deny it.

I will fight it.

I will repent of it.


But to be sure, it’s there.

British and American white males of my generation grew up with the certainties that the “rest of the world” was to be seen and judged through the lenses of our superiority.

This means that I am capable of the meanest and most horrid racist thoughts.

My bones may not be racist.

But my soul is.

Mea culpa.

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