My Uncle Roy was a terribly racist person as was much of my family growing up. My first encounter with him was an altogether shocking experience as a 12 years old, even though I had been around blatantly racist family members before. I can remember hearing him say the n word at a pace of every third to fourth word and finding myself somewhere between disgust and amazement that someone that I was related to could actually be that racist.
My family often tried to convince me that he was a good person. "He grew up that way" was the excuse for such blatantly racist diatribes. I never accepted it or him. You may love your family. You may be kind to certain folks in your orbit, But if you have hate in your heart, than being a good person is out of reach. If so much of your ego is wrapped up in your white identity within a white supremacist worldview, than no, I don't believe you are a good person.
Good people don't dehumanize others for any reason and certainly not for their race. I think at this point most of us accept this maxim.
But of course it wasn't always that way. Slaveholding gentry certainly had a high opinion of themselves and their place in the world. Many of the founding fathers owned other human beings and we still accept the other qualities that made them great leaders. Such leadership though didn't mean they were good people. Owning another human being disqualifies you from that status, even within the historical context in which they lived. In 1779, Jefferson wrote a plan to end slavery in Virginia and yet he held on to a couple hundred slaves until his dying day. Washington made sure his slaves were freed upon the deaths of himself and his wife. Franklin was one the earliest anti-slavery activists. People generally know deep down when something is wrong,
White Citizens Councils and the KKK who enforced Jim Crow had folks that fancied themselves to be good, upstanding people and community members. But of course if you are engaging in blatantly discrimination, intimidation, and murder often in the form of lynching, than you are not a good person. Deep down, you know better. And if you don't, your ego must be be so deeply embedded in your white identity that you have absolute blinders on to the humanity of African Americans. Unlike Trump's comments about Charlottesville last summer, there aren't good people amongst the KKK and Neo-Nazis.
After Trump's election, I vowed to engage white folks who voted for him to better understand what their concerns are and to build bridges to hopefully. These last couple of weeks have been eye opening in this pursuit. As I go back with conservative friends and trolls on social media, they have defended Trump's cruel and inhumane practice of ripping children from their parents through various forms of argumentation.
Some want to deflect by blaming Clinton and Obama for forcing Trump's hand in his cruel practices. Never mind that Jeff Sessions and the President both said themselves that was a new practice and policy.
Others wanted to blame the parents for coming here and breaking the law (the Jeff Sessions legal argument). Never mind that seeking asylum is not a crime and you need not be at point of entry to claim asylum, Never mind that the first entry into the US is a misdemeanor offense.
Others defended the intent of the policy and thereby demonstrated the very worst in racism and xenophobia.
In all of these arguments, I made the case that if you are fighting to rip children from their parents than it is clear that you and I don't share the same values. I slowly have come around to the realization that some of these folks aren't good people simply put. Trump is both a manifestation and instigator of racists throughout the country. In these cases there's nothing more to say than say, "You aren't a good person. Good people don't support policies intended to undermine and strip the humanity and dignity of other classes or groups. I implore you to dig deeper." I then take my leave.
Uncle Roy would have voted for Trump, if he voted at all. He certainly wouldn't feel out of place any longer in Trump's America. Uncle Roy wasn't a good person. The folks out here defending ripping children from parents for crossing a line in the dirt aren't good people either.