Op-Ed Commentary by Paul H. de Vries
Indisputably, we are living in a time of disorientation. As we redefine our personal and professional lives in the disabling fog of the wicked COVID-19 virus, new questions confront us, such as: “Do we work at home or live at work?” On the social front, we also are disturbed by the rude awakening that the many outstanding moral reforms, civil rights legislations, and collaborative achievements in American society have not been enough to overcome another virus: the ugly Racism virus.
We wholeheartedly commend every effort to correctly diagnose cases of racism and every outreach to assist both its victims and perpetrators in overcoming the ravages of racism. It is our heart-felt desire for people and communities to become healed and whole, freely participating in the God-ordained divine equality of people.
Tragically, another hideous, destructive virus has emerged alongside of the ugly Racism virus: the Partisan virus. This virus’ chief symptom is unrestrained, unhinged, unaccountable verbal abuse of other people in the most demeaning and debilitating terms. And because real racism is such a highly contagious and truly wicked virus, the unaccountable, partisan viral use of the label “racist” is so destructive.
For example, just recently, the State of Georgia’s legislature wrote and passed a bipartisan reform of election laws, making it easier for every Georgian to vote but harder to cheat – longer voting hours, more voting days, and no-excuse mail-in voting with voter ID. This reform is supported by a multi-ethnic cluster of leaders because it makes voting in elections actually more accommodating to people of every race than voting is even in non-southern states, including New York, Colorado, and Delaware.
Tragically, some misguided national leaders and corporate leaders have sought to exert their power over Georgia. Is it because it is a southern state that they presumed its policies, even in 2021, must be racist? Some of the baseless attacks were targeted to hurt business interests in Atlanta, Georgia – ignoring the fact that a huge number of those business enterprises are owned by African-American citizens, perhaps more than in any other major city. The carriers of the vicious Partisan virus also recklessly and foolishly attacked the idea of voters needing photo-IDs, as if minority people are not intelligent enough to obtain photo-IDs, and as if minority people never apply for jobs, never have bank accounts, never visit corporate offices, never fly in airplanes, never buy alcoholic beverages or cigarettes, and never do any of the numerous other things requiring photo IDs in contemporary society. How ignorant can the carriers of this Partisan virus be, and how demeaning they are of their minority neighbors – whom they must hardly know!
Absurdly, some of these carriers of the Partisan virus even compare Georgia’s new election legislation to Jim Crow laws of the last century – without a single objective point of comparison. Some of us knowingly sacrificed our jobs and risked our lives fighting Jim Crow laws – and we remember them quite well. Any attempted positive comparison of the expansion of voting privileges and rights of the new Georgia election law with the atrocious, depraved Jim Crow laws is outrageous, ignorant, and demeaning.
Without question, the Racism virus is a wicked, insidious, destructive, vicious, horrific, outrageous, contagious virus. And so is the Partisan virus!
May God give all of us the courage and wisdom to defeat both of these irrational affronts against humanity and to insist that truth, justice, and civility be the hallmarks of effective public discourse. For those of us who cherish the God-ordained gift of equality, there is no excuse if we fail to speak out against the dual evils of racism and vicious partisanship.
Paul H. de Vries, pauldevries.com, is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, author, and speaker. He is a specialist in biblical hermeneutics and applied ethics – and one of the founders of the Racial Reconciliation RoundTable in New York City.