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I heard a really compassionate speech at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in San Miguel de Allende. I should say that I am an agnostic, but the UUFSMA is a great organization, comprised of believers and non-believers. The speech was about how the speaker came to realize that she needed to feel guilt and shame in order to divest herself of hidden white racism. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

She is a white American, and she married a black non-American. They have biracial children. Her husband was deported, and she joined him in Mexico where they (and I) live. In the process, she began to realize that all her life she had accepted the white class and its seeking of comfort and power over non-whites. She believes that whites need to feel guilt and shame in their acceptance of whiteness. They need to move towards being together with other races.

With the power of white supremacy everywhere, it is a country where racism is highly prevalent. And what should one do about it?

I agree with what she wants, but I would say that not all whites in America need to accept responsibility for the whiteness of our society. There is a distinct group of whites who have rejected the way our society is organized, and many or most are working to change the society for the better. For a more collective and integrated society. That’s what I do.

I was raised in a family (basically of Ukrainian and Russian immigrants, although with a few Romanians), and they were not racist. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know why. But they were strongly in favor of collectivism. My great aunt, Anne Terry White, married to Harry Dexter White, wrote books for young people, including a biography of George Washington Carver (1953) and North to Liberty: The Story of the Underground Railroad (1972). She wrote these in order to make young people understand the horror of slavery and the difficulties that black people have had in the past. She, like most of my family, were progressive, non-racist people.

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I know that there are white racists in America. In fact, the power and position of such folks is what makes America a country of hypocrisy. We pride ourselves as being from a land of democracy, a place of exceptionalism bound to freedom. But at the same time, with the power of white supremacy everywhere, it is a country where racism is highly prevalent. And what should one do about it?

If you have never been racist, or if you want the racism in your background to cease in the future, you should do two things. First, understand what racism is and divest yourself of any tendency in that direction. Second, work to the best of your capacity to change the society and rid itself of racism. It can be done, if a substantial part of the society works in that direction.

The speaker at the UUFSMA concentrated her effort on ridding herself of any white racism, but she did not speak as eloquently about working with others to change the society to rid it of racism. The latter is so important. If we worked together, black and white and every other race, to make our society as one, we would have a much better place for all of us. I am very much encouraged by how many mixed marriages are taking place. If every child were now of mixed race, racism would become a thing of the past.

I once read a short story about the last white man in America. He was old, crotchety, racist and in a hospital. The hospital workers (all multi-race) disliked his attitude. Eventually, he died. And once hospital worker asked another, “What do you think the last black man would be like?” A very good question.

michael hertz

Would you like to get rid of racism? Then promote a government program that advances the cause of mixed marriages. If we paid partners in mixed marriages extra, we would quickly have a mixed race culture. And with no more “racial purity,” racism would disappear. Well, it’s a good idea, but I have no doubt that American racists would oppose it. The racists want racism to continue. No doubt about that.

Michael Hertz