Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Match or the Dynamite?



This is the text of a Letter to the Editor I wrote for my local paper, The Daily Progress, in response to an editorial they published prior to the events of August 12th, 2017.

When studying the causes of WWI in junior high, my teacher said that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was like “throwing a match into a room full of dynamite.”  In your August 10th editorial, you said the same thing about Councilor Wes Bellamy’s role in the current racial unrest in Charlottesville – “[he] dropped a match onto a gas field.”  

The analogy of the match dropper has one big problem – it absolves the people who filled the room with explosives.   To follow through with your analogy, the systems and structures of white supremacist culture are the gas that has soaked the field of our city and our nation.  To blame Mr. Bellamy for the conflagration is to tacitly approve of the highly combustible atmosphere that has been the status quo for centuries.

The Civil War – celebrated in the Lee and Jackson monuments – was fought to preserve a way of life predicated on slavery.  The Confederacy lost.  Yet from the ashes of slavery was born Jim Crow.  The end of Jim Crow gave rise to our current policies of racially-biased mass incarceration, and the double-standard by which a Michael Brown is shot and killed while a Dylan Roof is safely escorted out, unharmed.  You ask, “how did we get here?”  The answer is plain to anyone who will look honestly at our nation’s history.  To imply that Councilor Bellamy is responsible for the “raging fire” we have been experiencing is to effectively absolve our country’s white supremacist culture that created the explosive conditions in the first place.

Pointing fingers will not “control [this] conflagration.”  We must all – especially those of us who identify as white – recognize the ways we participate in and perpetuate the systems and structures of white supremacy, even unwittingly.  The field must be thoroughly flushed.  

There is a saying: “white supremacy is the air we breathe.”   To continue with the analogy, we need to remember that it is not the visible gasoline that is explosive; it is the invisible vapors we must make sure are cleared – the air we breathe.

Erik Walker Wikstrom (Rev.)
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4 comments:

nik skaggs said...

Totally agree!

Pamela Philips said...

Amen!

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