We are, each of us, a little wind. Mostly, we are good little winds. We blow a little, here and there. We do what we can to increase joy and diminish pain. Every so often, a great many winds gather in one place, and blow together, and so, they do much harm. They uproot trees and smash houses, and they generate a great deal of pain and suffering and loss.
If you find yourself in a place where a great many winds gather and together you do great harm, and you, too, blow in that direction with them, you cannot say that you were not a hurricane. And if we wake up and say “that was some bad weather last night”, then we are talking about you. You might be just a little wind, but a great many winds came together and were a hurricane, and so were you a hurricane.
This is how it is with racism. And sexism, too. And a great many other “isms”, too many to name them all here. The formula for racism is discrimination plus structural support. We are all a little racist, a little sexist - it is part of the air we breathe, we cannot be separated from it. We all carry the potential for harm, if we join together and focus on our potential to harm, we can do great harm.
People, with the support of systemic racism, enslaved, raped, and murdered many millions of Africans during chattel slavery. People, with the support of systemic racism, robbed, imprisoned, and murdered many millions of European Jews during the Nazi period. In the last few decades, racism has made genocides in Ukraine, Armenia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. It has brought drone strikes and the fear of sunny days to people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will continue to murder and deprive and torture, for as long as we allow a great many to gather together and do great harm.
If you blow with the hurricane, you are a hurricane. You cannot vote for a racist and not be a racist. You cannot vote for a misogynist and not be a misogynist. You cannot give hatred and discrimination your power without hating and discriminating. I am sorry to have to tell you that what you intended to accomplish in your heart matters less than the context in which you operate and the effect you generate.
For what it’s worth, this here is the operation of a “classical liberal arts education”, the intent and design of which is to make it possible for us to sense and understand the forces gathering around us and to be a little less smug in our feeling that we are good little winds.
Some of us, at least, a long time ago, said “never again”. Some of us, at least, choose to gather together and rail against the belief that we are good and do no harm and everything will be okay. It’s not terribly effective, but blowing against the hurricane is the only thing I have left to do.