The Love that Dares Not Be Declaimed

By | June 21, 2015

It is not inexplicable. Look up that word. It does not define what it happening.

This was recently posted about Republican leaders who can’t tell us the truth about racism in America. It is a mystery. It is inexplicable. It is unfathomable.

But it is completely explicable. It is completely understandable. You just have to be a white American to not understand it, and you have to not want to understand it, because–and you know this–there is no penalty for refusing to see and to understand.

We are unable as white people to confront our own racism. We cannot handle the idea that a body of people like us but merely differently colored is consistently treated as “other” and excluded from so much of the benefits of American society and participation in American life.

Yes, there is a 400 year history of this treatment by white Americans. Yes, the Constitution and founding of this nation made them unbreakable slaves. Yes, a long war was fought with the conclusion that these second-class residents could become citizens. Yes, one hundred years later (one hundred!) laws were passed to enforce the right to be citizens. Yes, we have a black president.

But racism still paralyzes us. We still cannot handle the presence of black Americans in white society. We can’t call what happened in Charleston “white racist terrorism” because we are afraid to talk about what happened with the facts of what actually happened.

Politicians like Bush and Haley and Huckabee and Paul and the rest are shameful cowards that they cannot tell the truth to white people.

A white man took his gun into a church with black worshippers to kill them because his teachings and his culture and his world view and his American birthright told him that black Americans were going to “take” America away from him, and the only solution was to kill them — these nine black Americans gathered simply to worship Christ.

Not because they were Christians – there were a dozen other white churches within blocks. Because they were simply black, and American, and in the way.

When we stay silent, when we turn our heads, when we pretend that because *we* are nice that we have no responsibility—we are participating, because we are not speaking up.

We simply must demand that our leaders lead us, tell us the truth, make hard choices, act like leaders.

Or we must have different leaders.

Those nine people who were shot by a white Christian American male are the witness.

Say their names. Say their deaths. Say their worth.

16 thoughts on “The Love that Dares Not Be Declaimed

  1. Way2GoSassy

    So very true. I hope that this well written piece gets out to many,many people.

  2. Metis

    Thank you. The noble families of those nine martyrs said to the murderer, “We forgive you; may God have mercy on your soul.” I am stunned with admiration. I couldn’t have done that.

  3. The Wet One

    You fight the good fight.

    You’re a real mensch and a good man.

  4. plethora

    The cultures of the past have breeded too much hate. It was truly shocking to see that today’s youth have been so brainwashed by these ideals.

  5. daanno2

    Of course what happened is inexplicable.

    It is one thing to be a racist. Quite another to take away the lives of 9 people.

    Your garden variety racists do not commit mass murder. Making the jump from racism to homicidal mania is what is inexplicable, not the racism itself. Therefore, framing Republicans as denialists of racism just takes away from the otherwise important message you are trying to communicate.

    1. stephen matlock

      It is lazy writing to say all republicans are racist. More precise would be to say an unknown number, and not limited to one party, but certainly more prevalent, public, and vocal in the Republican Party.
      I was a solid Republican for forty-plus years, served as a minor elected official, was an elected delegate to my county and state conventions. It was there, all along. I tried to pretend it wasn’t us, but it erupted from time to time, especially when I was seen as the trusted conservative like them.
      It’s not limited to the party. It’s just where I experienced it, over and over.

  6. Ormond Otvos

    Don’t presume to know the minds and character of all white folk, Stephen. You don’t.

    1. stephen matlock

      I appreciate your comment–I really do. I aim to be clear and accurate.
      I would be wrong if I claimed to know the mind of anyone but myself–and even that is a half-formed understanding.
      I only know that when I look into myself I see certain things that appear to match the words and experiences of many others.
      Not all white people think the same because no white person–or any person–thinks like another.
      But white-ness is a culturally created persona. It changes its values slightly over time. In America it’s expressed as the default condition: to be American is to be white; all other residents and citizens must be called out as conditions: black Americans, Latin@ Americans, gay Americans, and so on.
      I see this in me–this default, unexamined, and frankly lazy presupposition, I see it in many others, all white, and I make my conclusions.
      There’s no judgment there that’s it’s wrong so much that it is weak and privileged.
      Anyway, thanks for the observation. Your criticism will help me think and express myself more clearly.

      1. Ormond Otvos

        Thanks for the cool reply, Stephen. My intent was to present the idea that we script ourselves, and others, through naming, of traits, and conditions, and each naming restricts our ability, and theirs, to move freely in their lives. I’m very leery of predicting one trait from another, since it fails so often, which offends my science upbringing.

        I also do day care, and for decades I’ve been aware that you can change a little person by scripting them, by telling them “that’s a boy thing” or “a girl thing.” It’s also true of temperament, and other barely emergent traits.

        Of course, when someone is withdrawing, reading hate sites, and buying guns he seems to intend to use, it’s time to act…

      2. stephen matlock

        I think we do invent ourselves. I am really not as well-read as I’d like to be, but I have read some stuff about how the “Western” mind was invented by the Greeks. We Western thinkers have a hard time understanding how not to think like we do. And I think we form our character over time by the actions, as you note, that are small when taken singly but become ourselves as we continue them and continue to add to them.

        That gives me some hope that we will be able to re-form ourselves according to broad values of justice, love, and compassion.

        I don’t think everyone will be transformed because not everyone will make the choices, but I do think we can by encouragement, by example, by direct involvement we can re-form people, much as school and home and church and community form and re-form us.

        We just have to, in my opinion, know what values we seek, admire, and want to be our common values.

      3. stephen matlock

        It appears that it might be. It was first published in 1976, which tracks with my memory of it being decades ago. I think that it might be another book, though – I seem to recall reading it in my teen years, which would put it in the 60s.

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