My Ten Personal Reasons for Boycotting Racial Outrage

People march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on August 11, 2017.

By Robert Oscar Lopez Published on August 17, 2017

I choose to boycott the racial outrage over Charlottesville. I will issue no statement denouncing the rally, anybody involved in the rally, or any abstract labels like “white supremacy,” “racism,” “white nationalism” or “hate.”

Why? Partly out of skepticism. The media apply such labels promiscuously. We have many examples throughout history of early accounts being drastically inaccurate. I distrust every media outlet from Salon to National Review and cannot rely on their representation of events.

The Bible overrides noise in this debate. Paul said it best to the Ephesians, “All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:31).

This may be hard to believe, but that applies to people you think are racist.

The death of Heather Heyer and the two policemen in a helicopter are human tragedies. I oppose manslaughter of innocent people in all forms. Over the weekend,though, my Twitter feed frightened me. I could not sleep. This situation feels different from others because we seem to have lost control of our hearts and minds.

Below are ten personal reasons for my boycott of racial outrage:

1. Some of the “Haters” are Just Terrified and Misguided.

In Charlottesville, various groups gathered. Some people now labeled as racists are probably not. I know, because I follow them on Twitter and read much of what they write. They are “pro-white” without being “anti-minority,” as hard as that may be for some people to accept. They seem to have grabbed on to this position out of defensiveness, since their own group is being vilified. A sad but human response.

They react to haywire identity politics by defending Western civilization, which I also defend. I know from my own research that African American, Latino, and Asian American literature descend from it. In other words, non-white Americans have as firm a claim on that civilization as anyone else. Multiculturalists who deny that are practicing their own form of segregation. But nobody talks about that. Nobody.

2. I Served in the Army Reserves.

My stint in the military forced me to rely on others’ actions. Many people in my unit held offensive racial beliefs and said things that would get them dismissed from job in academia. Some would be friends in the military context and would never socialize back home. Some would likely not allow their daughters to date me. Race was one among many factors that caused lives to become compartmentalized.

My strongest friendship was with an Irish Catholic from Oregon. My closest buddy in the Los Angeles unit was a black Muslim, but we worked alongside whites during battle assemblies without trying to separate ourselves on base. I took friendship on the terms offered. I didn’t judge people for the rest. Beneath layers of seeming estrangement these were real, complex people. I have taken that with me wherever I go. I know individuals by who they are, not by whether I like the way they view my ethnic group. Such experience makes alarmism about race feel petty and annoying.

3. I’ve Worked a Lot on Race.

I’ve paid my dues. I’ve published essays about racism on the left and right that have alienated people. When I’ve done so, I have followed the dictates of John 8: “The truth shall set you free.” I roll up my sleeves and engage institutions and political structures. At my current job I work with African Americans on urban issues and with Latinos on social issues. My salvation came in a Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles. At Cal State Northridge, my last job, I formed a proposal to diversify the curriculum, which had taken me seven years to prepare. One thing I’ve learned about race is that talk is cheap. Currently, for example, only 7% of full professors are black or Latino in the liberal-dominated academia, yet they make up over 30% of the U.S. population. Denouncing a parade? Hardly brave.

4. I’m Christian.

It’s wrong to call people you do not know “demonic,” “evil” or “wicked” based on hearsay. One of the Ten Commandments is, “do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The famous rule from Leviticus is, “love your neighbor as yourself.” This includes apparently racist neighbors. Christians must practice the Gospel even toward people who cut unsympathetic figures. Remember “Love thy enemy”?

5. I Wrote The Colorful Conservative and Still Remember That Research.

My first scholarly monograph was Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman. I examined two black and three white American authors (1773-1871) and how they conversed with ancient sources.

The conversations with the past, I concluded, followed clear patterns. I suggested “colorfulness” was more important than “color.” I defined “colorfulness” as being an original thinker able to defy peers while still feeling irresistibly drawn to traditional inspirers. Someone of color might be predictable, conformist and drab. A minority might be blankly nihilistic and unmoored either to social conventions or to ancient traditions. A white person might be dashingly colorful, able to resist peers’ clichés while drawing from the great treasures of civilization. The book took me ten years to write and unfortunately I had trouble getting it reviewed by conservatives! But it drew me into a world where race, while never wholly irrelevant, became merely one of many things that could inflect a person’s voice. I walked away from that project able to let people dazzle me. Even if what they said was utterly reprehensible. As long as it carried a kernel of beauty. Racial outrage feels stifling, even suffocating, after that.

6. The Gay Left and Right Both Smothered Me in Unfair Labels.

GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, Right Wing Watch, Media Matters, and Southern Poverty Law Center have all labeled me “anti-gay” or “anti-LGBT.” I have seen firsthand what it is like when vast organizations slaughter you with labels. Because of that my antenna is up when labels like “white supremacist” become commonplace. Maybe some labels fit, but my experience demands I hold back from taking them seriously until strong evidence becomes available.

7. I’ve Studied the Puritans

If you read “Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop you find a proposal for a society based on Christian love, rather than rationally knowable justice. Sixty years after this was delivered, charity had turned into the witchcraft trials. As it turns out, when you create a political system based on “love,” you police people’s emotions and overanalyze the thoughts and feelings of others. You give words a magical power that only God has. You see witches where there are simply people whom you dislike. So I am wary.

8. I’ve Studied Edward Said.

Said’s Orientalism serves me in ways that would likely drive Said crazy. He concerned himself with the Arab world. His thesis was that Eurocentric racists imposed a false identity on Arabs using both military force and the power of prestigious institutions. Scholars became “experts” on Arabs and told them who they were — usually some inaccurate stereotype.

Like Foucault before him, Said stayed attuned to terms and classifications. He knew that these had the power to misrepresent people, dehumanize them, even leave them vulnerable to be killed. Whenever I hear leftists and establishment conservatives throw terms like “white supremacist” around, my Said alarms go off, this time in racial reverse. Look at the pictures of the white men marching in Charlottesville with luxury torches. They look pale, forgotten, beleaguered and lonely. They betoken a sincere fear that society will wash over them and leave them with nothing. They do not match the ominous severity of words like “supremacist.”

9. I Grew Up in Williamsville, New York.

When I was a child, my family lived in a small Republican village a few miles east of Buffalo. The population was over 90% white. I got beat up many times and stopped taking the school bus home by about seventh grade, for fear of getting picked on. “Spic” and “nigger” were terms thrown daily at me. It would take about 90 minutes to walk home from school to my house. During the long Buffalo winters I fell ill for months at a time.

Racism and fear pervaded our lives. But one found joy and love. Many people who held barbaric views on race would be the ones to help during times of trouble. My mother’s own (alas!) female lover was white and had some frightening views on race and IQs, but she was a kind parental figure to me. My favorite film, Music Man, reminds me vividly of that wintery town. Would I want to live in a Williamsville whose social fabric was ripped apart to remove all racists from it? No, I wouldn’t. Many “racists” were beloved people to me. Racism isn’t everything. I know that.

10. I Researched My Family Histories.

Of the many solutions one might ponder to racial strife, one stands out as a non-starter: just screaming louder at whoever we don’t want to deal with. We must deal with each other as we are. Christ told us to.

My father was Filipino and my mother was Puerto Rican. At the age of six, my father saw the Japanese raze his town in northern Luzon. My grandmother gave birth to my uncle in a ditch in 1941 as dogfights lit up the skies overhead. My mother’s ancestry trails backward gloomily to the Caribbean sugar trade. In her town, sugar was king and slavery was everyone’s history except the upper class. She had ancestors who were slaves and some who were free. There are a million kinds of suffering that have nothing to do with white supremacy.

Politics often has a personal element. Especially in race debates, we shout the loudest when our personal demons are most restless. But all of us are members of the body of Christ, with our flaws and strengths together. We must drive demons out of the whole body of Christ, not banish each other with our demons still trapped inside us. Of the many solutions one might ponder to racial strife, one stands out as a non-starter: just screaming louder at whoever we don’t want to deal with. We must deal with each other as we are. Christ told us to.

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  • Mensa Member

    >> abstract labels like “white supremacy,” “racism,” “white nationalism” or “hate.”

    Those labels lose their abstraction for a black person being beat by a white mob with metal rods.

    • Mensa Member

      PS: I did a quick search of the author. Did he really rise above it? Or did he just identify with the oppressor class? I don’t know but his behavior kind of seems like it.

      • Tim H

        I’ve read a lot of your replies MM. But this one is the most despicable. You can’t even get past your own classifications to hear genuine truth when it’s in front of you. I’m praying for both of us right now.

        • Chip Crawford

          He just did a bait and switch. Drawing in with such obsequious “sentiments” and then the sting of a fact check that supposedly pulls the rug out from the poor victim he just slobbered over. Despicable; yes, in need of salvation. The most offensive is the claim to Christianity, cheapening it. He’s as lost as a goose.

          • Kay Headley

            Bless his heart, he seems to be prouder of his Mensa Membership (intellect) than any status as a child of God follower of Christ.

    • Paul

      What is a minority? I’m an immigrant white guy who grew up in a community dominated by Hispanics and blacks and was physically attacked by their gangs. My public schools had race based preferences that put me at a disadvantage because of my skin shade. Who is demanding all these people and institutions repent for my victimization?

      Stereotypes like yours are perpetuating the problem. People can be mean to other people. In America people of all shades have been mean to other people of all shades. Stop with the stereotypes of whites always being the problem, it isn’t reality, far from it.

    • Chip Crawford

      To be a Christian, you must be born again, not merely claim the I.D. in order to “better” shill on a Christian website.

  • Myth Buster

    So, why doesn’t Lopez boycott racial outrage over the rally? “Partly out of skepticism. The media apply such labels promiscuously. We have many examples throughout history of early accounts being drastically inaccurate.”

    Lopez isn’t denouncing the Ratzi and KKK members, because we shouldn’t make hasty judgement on them. He claims to be a Christian and yet says, “wrong to call people you do not know “demonic,” “evil” or “wicked” based on hearsay.” He says this when talking about Ratzis. He says we shouldn’t make boycotting racial outrageous judgments on Ratzi and KKK. What? My God! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at such an idiotic assertion.

    • Paul

      Yes, you’ve made it perfectly clear in past posts that truth is hard for you to handle.

      • Myth Buster

        Sure, There were large numbers of “good people” marching with the Ratzis and KKK that night. That’s what “good people” do, march with the Ratzies and KKK. I guess you believe that to be true…..

        You’ve made it perfectly clear in past posts what you believe. Or, maybe not….

        • Paul

          All your rage is obscuring your ability to see what Robert is talking about.

          • Myth Buster

            Just a “white kid in public school” that eventually went to “college” and learned little. Did you carry the tiki torch or the Confederate Flag? you sound like a tiki kind of a guy.

          • Paul

            It’s a new day but you’re up to your same old lame mudslinging tactics, it seems reasonable ideas like those posed by Robert simply scare you too much since they invalidate your rage.

          • Myth Buster

            I’m “up to your same old lame mudslinging tactics”? You’re the one that spinelessly never commits to a point. Just whining about the poor white girl who can’t profess their racial heritage. I feel your rage. Now, did you carry the tiki torch or the Confederate Flag? You sound like a tiki kind of a guy.

          • Paul

            Yes indeed, tiki torches are great, we use them in our back yard, especially with citronella oil to help repel the mosquitos. Oh you got me, guess that makes me a racist.

          • Myth Buster

            So, your saying the SA-Blownshirts weren’t racists marching down streets at night with their torches side-by-side with Ratzi flags? They were just “good people” too. So you went to college?

          • Paul

            I don’t believe skin shade makes anyone superior to another. Nor do I believe carrying a tiki torch or the color of a shirt makes anyone a racist. If they believe their skin shade makes them somehow superior then that would make them a racist.

          • Myth Buster

            We’ll then our worlds are not that far apart. However, SA-Blownshirts were noted for being extreme racists. Not too many history books out there would say otherwise. The tiki torches were designed to mimic the SA-Blownshirts or the KKK marching at night.

          • Paul

            Unfortunately our worlds still seem quite far apart. I’m willing to be objective enough to see that the Charlottesville violence had many sides and that despising someones ideas isn’t grounds for violence. I also recognize that many people are (IMO justifiably) upset over stripping away history in pursuit of political correctness. In another response you were speaking of people pursuing their heritage, is a white southerner allowed to do that too or is that racist too? So many labels are tossed around indiscriminately in pursuit of ratings and agendas, this is part of what Robert is talking about.

          • Myth Buster

            I never tried justifying the violence. Both sides have the right of free speech. So, I have no idea how you could came to that conclusion. I just have problems with ignorant knuckle dragging ideologies, such as what is displayed by Ratzis, KKK, Pink Panthers or any others groups that’s based on racism.

            “… people pursuing their heritage, is a white southerner allowed to do that too or is that racist too?” No. As long as racial superiority is not part of that “speaking”. Walking down a public street at night and holding a burning tiki torch with several hundred other idiots doing the same thing, while chanting “Jews go away” or “Blood and Soil” seems to cross that line. Anyone who has a basic understanding of history would most likely agree with that too.

          • Paul

            Do you consider black supremacists and black nationalists as knuckle dragging racists as well?

          • Myth Buster

            Yes. Stupidity has no racial boundaries.

          • Paul

            On that we agree.

          • Jim Walker

            You seemed to be living in the 1940s Germany. Talking non-stop about the Nazis and the Brownshirts.
            Wake up, there is more good things to do or see that fighting with a minority.

          • Myth Buster

            I don’t wish to blow any of your brain bubbles, but those were the clowns in Charlotte. You missed all of that on Fox News or just can’t follow the conversation here?

          • Jim Walker

            Sure there are some Brownshirts there but the Antifags mob were 5:1 against them. Since when there were violence from these Brownshirt people ? They were a bunch who uses their big mouth more than their fists. On the contrary Antifags caused the most destruction everywhere they go looking for trouble.

          • Myth Buster

            There were a reported 2,000 right wing marchers in Charlotte. You’re asserting there was 5:1 = 10,000 Antifag there????

            “… these Brownshirt … were … uses their big mouth more than their fists.” Sorry, the footage shows otherwise. It can easily be watched.

            “On the contrary Antifags caused the most destruction everywhere they go looking for trouble.” How many people did the Antifags kill in Charlotte last weekend? ZERO.

          • Jim Walker

            Oops typo, 2:1.
            Both sides are fighting so you blame those that came attacking or those that came to protest with a permit?
            I blame both.

          • Myth Buster

            First off, the woman killed lived in the immediate area; the Ratzi sympathizer doing the killing lived in Ohio. Most of the Alt-Right people came from other areas. Yes, the Ratzis and KKK had a permit that they violated by marching off the prescribed authorized route. They had no permit to march where they marched and violated their permit requirements. Secondly, there is footage showing the Ratzis and KKK attacking too. They were not totally victims. They came looking for a fight, encouraged it and got what they came looking for.

            Next, there is no moral equivalency between the Ratzis and KKK vs. the antifascists, history is pretty clear on this point. Someone who doesn’t understand this, should pick up a book and do some reading on the subject. Finally, I agree with your last two sentences.

          • Jim Walker

            I didn’t say the Right are victims. Both sides are wrong to have cause violence.
            The Alt-Left came looking for a fight and riot, bringing urine, feces, home made flame throwers, baseball bats, etc.
            The Alt Right came to protest.
            I don’t support both sides ad condemn their actions, especially the murderer driver.

          • Myth Buster

            Yes, both sides were wrong to have cause violence. Couldn’t agree with you more on that point.

            “The Alt-Left came looking for a fight and riot, bringing urine, feces, home made flame throwers, baseball bats, etc.” Well the Alt-Right also came looking for a fight and riot, bringing shields, clubs and in some cases guns and motor vehicles used as weapons. This is not even in dispute, because there is footage of this, one dead person and dozens of injured. I also believe the world would be a better place without the Ratzis and the KKK.

          • Jim Walker

            So at least we are agreeable
            Alt Right had to arm themselves because they are expecting the Alt Left.
            I condemn the murderous driver who drove his car just like a radical terrorist.
            Anyway, we must not be drawn into supporting any sides but continue to condemn the stupidity of such riots.

          • Myth Buster

            Yes, but I could easily turn that around to say the Alt Left had to arm themselves because they are expecting the Alt Right. I agree 100% with your last comment that we must not be drawn into supporting any sides but continue to condemn the stupidity of such riots.

      • Myth Buster

        Just a “white kid in public school” that eventually went to “college” and learned little. Did you carry the tiki torch or the Confederate Flag? you sound like a tiki kind of a guy.

  • One of my old college friends posted this today on here Facebook page:

    I was beaten up on my way home from elementary school. I was told I killed Jesus. My bff Hope Savitt came to my rescue. Fast forward 35 yrs. One of the teachers at my kids’ junior high pulled some anti-Semitic crap towards my son. I called her out on it and was on my way to the ACLU to file charges against her when she turned herself around.
    Stand up and be proud. Don’t be silent.

    • Paul

      As a white kid in public school there were race based preferences that put me at a disadvantage due to my skin shade. I went to college and there were official student groups for blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Indians, Arabs and others I’m forgetting. But no white groups. You tell me to stand up and be proud, but in our insane culture that would make me a racist.

      • Myth Buster

        That’s odd. There’s no German-American clubs in your home town? We have one where I live.

        • Paul

          I was talking of college groups, nor am I of German heritage. Besides, what about white kids born to families here in the US for many generations, if it is suposedly good to be proud of your skin shade are they allowed to be proud as well?

          • Myth Buster

            There’s life beyond college and there’s Polish-American groups too.

          • Paul

            How about white people born into families who have been in the US for many generations, what group do you assign them to?

          • Myth Buster

            History or genealogical clubs. You’ve never heard of them?

          • Paul

            But wait, is that what you would say to a black person? That their choice to associate must revolve around history or genealogy?

          • Myth Buster

            You were just speaking in absolute terms above, saying there was no places to “stand up and be proud” about your heritage. I just pointed out two of them. I believe that’s what we were discussing, right?

          • Paul

            An American white person born into an American family with roots dating back to the 1600’s isn’t affiliated with some long distant foreign origin they are Americans, not german-Americans or Polish-Americans, etc.

          • Myth Buster

            That’s your opinion; nevertheless, the social groups I’ve stated above exist. The German-American Club in my hometown has members born into an American family with roots dating back to the old country. They are also proud of their heritage and this is the point of their existence. Sorry, but this is a point of reality.

          • Paul

            That is their prerogative of course, but do other white Americans get to choose to simply be a white American?

          • Myth Buster

            Yes, the Ratzis or the KKK. They are not illegal.

          • Paul

            Basically what your reply here is saying is that if some white Americans choose to associate based on their common pride in their skin color then they are by definition white supremacists.

          • Myth Buster

            No, you’re now trying to put words in my mouth. If they, however, somehow link that skin color with racial superiority (such as the Ratzis or KKK), then yes. They would be then by definition “white “supremacists (your example).

          • Paul

            Well this is a more balanced response, thank you.

            If you saw a black person wearing a black pride t-shirt and a white person wearing a white pride t-shirt, what would be your assumptions about either of these peoples racism?

          • Myth Buster

            That’s a different question that can’t be easily answered in a vacuum. Sadly, this country has an extensive racial history that needs to be taken into consideration – affecting the possible meaning of those t-shirts, wouldn’t you agree? It’s like the “Blood and Soil” phrase. To the average person on the street it sounds extremely innocent; to someone who is educated and understands the history, ideology and context, it’s highly racist and tied into past genocidal behavior. So, are you asking a person on the street totally ignorant of our country’s history that doesn’t know its cultural context, as to the t-shirt’s meaning? Or, someone educated?

          • Paul

            Yes, I agree there is US history to the issue, I wonder when we get to live in the present and future rather than the past.

            Specifically I was asking what your perceptions would be.

          • Myth Buster

            On that issue – never. For two reasons: first, it’s difficult to expunge our past. Secondly, I have a degree in history and it would then be made worthless, if everyone wanted to live in the present and future rather than the past. 🙂

          • Liberty4Evr

            Myth Buster tipped his hands to his beliefs when he asked about Hyphenated American Clubs.

  • Tim H

    Robert I’ve read some of your posts here and elsewhere. I want to say thank you. What a diificult piece for you to live out in these socially roiling times. You’ve put up with a lot from many sides. And it appears to me you have a keen sense of classical virtues (justice, wisdom, temperance and courage) along with a deep thirst for understanding. What I mean by that is this is piece rings out with learning on a personal level to deal with people as individuals demonstrating the virtues. And you have pursued your ideas academically showing a deep will to understand. To be honest i bet you and I might argue about some of your academic research or even some of the way you have stated things here, but it would be in an honest spirited search for truth. And that is a beautiful thing in itself. You just seem like a man dedicated to virtue and the glory of God. Peace snd life to you brother.

  • Tom Ruocco

    Thank you….thought provoking piece, and right on point.

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