There is no characteristic as vital to political problem-solving as humility. For if one is too proud to accept that they’re wrong, one should expect nothing more than insincere grandstanding, the malleability of objective fact and crippling entrenchment.
Last year, in my role as the political opinion writer for this publication, I wrote a piece entitled The Forgotten Meaning of Racism.
I was wrong.
I don’t mean to say I was insincere or malevolent in my writings, nor am I rescinding support for the crux of the column. Rather, in the final paragraph of the article, I wrote, “If something’s changed, then it doesn’t really exist any more, does it?”, suggesting that racism no longer lingers today.
In writing this, I was wrong.
After the death of Heather Heyer, I became fascinated with the events in Charlottesville. I questioned, How could these people still exist? Are they actual Nazis? And the KKK? Like, with the hoods and burning crosses? Do they actually know what the flags they’re carrying represent? But, unfortunately, what I was witnessing was painfully real.
Following David Duke’s praise for the president’s response to Charlottesville, I decided to learn more about Mr. Duke. I was dumbfounded to discover that, in the 2016 midterm elections, Mr. Duke, an avowed supporter of “voluntary” segregation, won nearly 60,000 votes for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. Granted, that’s only 3% of the vote in a relatively small Southern state.
Still, such a number should be concerning.
This revelation, among others, didn’t lessen my love of country. However, because I take enormous pride in the goodness of my country, it stung. Moreover, I felt personally ashamed. I was guilty of the very thing of which I accused others in my writings—ignorance.
I felt ashamed of the times I’d inwardly rolled my eyes when another spoke of the woes of racism in 2017. Obviously, we should do everything in our power to cultivate a culture of initiative and responsibility, but I neglected to consider the possibility that these peoples’ experiences were brutally accurate.
I didn’t want to believe that such evil still existed—so I didn’t.
I regret that it’s taken such a gut-wrenching development to open my eyes. But if any good can be salvaged from the murder of an innocent young woman, maybe it’s this: I realized my mistake. Never again will I refuse to confront something, using as justification its repugnant nature. Never again will I fail to avail myself of relevant information which, if consumed in a timely manner, would’ve prevented ignorant and hurtful statements.
Aristotle said the mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it. I ignored the problem, and it didn’t go away. Though it may be painful to face, the only way to destroy such speech is with more speech—not with violence, not with denial.
Let us continue to decry hatred in all forms, never hiding our faces from reality, until bigotry and racism are nothing more than a dark speck on the winding, rocky road behind us.
Jonathan Deemer is a junior studying business administration and international relations