First, (well not really first, but recently first) there was Cliven Bundy with his comments about African Americans being better off as slaves. Then, over the weekend, there was the supposed comments by the owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to the basketball games. Racist! is the immediate response to both these situations. But, I wonder is it more racism or more ignorance? And, is there a difference? Obviously, the line between racism and ignorance is blurry, at best, but recognizing on which side of that line we find ourselves may help us determine the most appropriate response.
Overt, deep-seated racism has an intentionally destructive edge to it.
It is born in anger. It is vindictive and hateful and destructive.
It is burning crosses and swastikas painted on buildings.
It is racial slurs and being chained and dragged behind a truck.
All meant to harm and to hurt.
Ignorance on the other hand is just that.
Saying something without any clue of how it really sounds to another.
Or how hurtful or harmful what you say really is.
The response to racism is confrontation.
Not violent confrontation, but confrontation never the less.
Calling it out for what it is.
Standing against it.
Ignorance, on the other hand, calls for teaching and learning and a deepening awareness.
To tell the truth, with Cliven Bundy or Donald Sterling I am not in a position to judge whether it is out and out racism or whether it is ignorance, but a blanket, one size fits all response to all situations like this may not be the most helpful way for us to name and to talk about these very important issues.