The purpose of this essay is to expose passive racism as it commonly occurs in the United States of America. We usually notice this type of racism when it is delivered through religious, or patriotic rhetoric. Unlike overt racism, where a particular minority is publicly antagonized, ridiculed, or discriminated against by a member of the majority, passive racism is far more subtle. Although this type of racism is manifested in various ways, I will explore the passive racism that can be observed when historical facts and circumstances are omitted, or not taken into consideration while making certain declarations, or during the staging of certain events. Columbus Day is a good example of passive racism in the form of a staged event. What I will explore here, is passive racism as it is commonly revealed in literature and speeches that romanticize and glorify an American "golden age"; a golden age of high moral, and ethical standards that truly never existed. An essay entitled, "If I Were The Devil" written and originally published by Paul Harvey in 1964, is a very good example of passive racism wrapped up in a conservative Christian rhetoric.
Who Was Paul Harvey?
Paul Harvey was a broadcaster for the ABC News Networks. He was famous for a news segment he hosted entitled " The Rest of the Story". His radio commentary primarily played to a conservative audience, beginning in 1951 until his death in 2009. He also hosted a 5 minute televised editorial from the late 60's through the early 80's. Throughout his career his editorials and commentary were featured in newspapers throughout the United States.
., The New York Times noted in his obituary:
" ... he personalized the radio news with his right-wing opinions, but laced them with his own trademarks: a hypnotic timbre, extended pauses for effect, heart-warming tales of average Americans and folksy observations that evoked the heartland, family values and the old-fashioned plain talk one heard around the dinner table on Sunday.
If I Were The Devil
In 1964 the essay " If I Were The Devil" was first published in Paul Harvey's newspaper column. Although Harvey revised and republished the essay in 1996, to the best of my knowledge this is the original version. I have only provided excerpts from the original essay as necessary to make my argument. The reader can review the entire essay by following this link: If I Were The Devil
Excerpts from: If I Were The Devil
If I were the Prince of Darkness I would want to engulf the whole earth in darkness.
I'd have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. [thee]
So I should set about however necessary, to take over the United States.
I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, "Do as you please."
To the young I would whisper "The Bible is a myth." I would convince them that "man created God," instead of the other way around. I would confide that "what is bad is good and what is good is square."
In the ears of the young married I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be "extreme" in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct.
And the old I would teach to pray — to say after me — "Our father which are in Washington." ...
... I'd designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts and I'd get preachers to say, "She's right."
With flattery and promises of power I would get the courts to vote against God and in favor of pornography.
Thus I would evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, then from the Houses of Congress ...
... If I were the Devil I'd take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Then my police state would force everybody back to work.
If I were Satan I'd just keep doing what I'm doing and the whole world go to hell as sure as the Devil.
Paul Harvey's essay suggests that America is a once great nation now in decline, or at least headed in that direction This is the context in which he has forged his sentiment; a sentiment based on a fiction that has been fostered by a racist mentality. However, when taken out of this context, Harvey makes several points that I wholeheartedly agree with.
For example, I firmly believe in having group prayer in public schools.I believe that a universal morality should even be taught in the public school system. As far as Christianity is concerned, there is nothing harmful in the teachings of Jesus , or the "golden rule". Citizens in every district should be able to decide what "brand" of religion to adopt, but I am of the mind that any brand of religion, or morality, that teaches children to respect and love one another, is a step in the right direction.
But before I continue any further, it is important to establish a point of reference.
Racism is commonly defined as follows:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2.a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3.hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Racism is most easily understood when manifested overtly:
• when hiring practices are based on race
• when discriminatory practices exist in public schools and higher education
• through racially motivated acts of violence
• when race is used as a determining factor in the buying and selling of real estate
• when access to public, private, or commercial facilities is determined by race
• when social interaction is prohibited between members of different races
The essay by Paul Harvey illustrates a more insidious form of racism. Consequently, when looking at the "big picture", this type of passive racism is actually more destructive and harmful to society than the overt form of racism, which can be more easily detected and challenged.
Two Butchers: by One Biscuit
In order to better understand, let us consider a man who works at a slaughterhouse. This man supports his family, and sends his sons and daughters to college with the money he earns. The man slaughters cows,and pigs, and sheep. After working at the slaughterhouse for 25 years, the man retires. After several more years, the man dies. At his funeral, a preacher stands before the family and friends assembled there and delivers an impassioned eulogy. He speaks of how well loved this man was in the community. He speaks of how this man cared and provided for his family. He speaks of how this man loved Jesus and donated money to the various charities.Finally, he speaks of how sorely this man will be missed in the community.
But I can see that the preacher has omitted something very important from his eulogy. And this omission reveals a great truth about human beings. At no time during the eulogy does the preacher mention that this man slaughtered , or murdered thousands of innocent animals during his 25 year tenure at the slaughterhouse. No, the preacher did not mention this fact. And in your lifetime, you will most likely never hear such a eulogy, and I will tell you why: You will never hear such a eulogy because human beings consider that they are superior to all other animals; especially the animals they have chosen to eat.
Because of this real, or imagined superiority, a butcher can kill many animals during the course of an 8 hour day, and then go home with a clear conscience and watch the Disney channel with his family. No one will ever question his integrity, or morality based on his work at the slaughterhouse. How could they? Many of them are eating the same kind of animals that he slaughters. If we did not consider ourselves superior to these animals, then we would not be able to murder them in such great numbers, nor could we have continued to do so for thousands of years.
We would not be able to sit in restaurants, in every city, and in every small town across America, eating dead animal parts that have been boiled, fried, baked, and broiled. There can be no argument with my conclusion. The proof is all around us, and there can be no doubt: Human beings consider themselves superior to animals! Consequently, the slaughter of animals for human consumption, and the eating of dead animal parts, privately and in public, is not figured into our sense of morality; no more than stepping on a blade of grass. According to us, we are superior to these animals, and our behavior clearly indicates that their demise at the hands of a butcher, is no great cause for sympathy, or remorse; not even a first or second thought.
Racism: "...usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."
Because the preacher in my wonderful story considered human beings superior to farm animals, he was able to sincerely praise the dead butcher with a clear conscience, giving the slaughtered animals no consideration whatsoever.This is what we see, at another level, when reviewing Paul Harvey's essay. We see a glaring omission that reveals a racist perspective. Since Paul Harvey finished high school, and attended the University of Tulsa, it is reasonable to assume that he studied American history. Keeping this in mind, Harvey's essay suggests that America is in decline; that there was a golden age when America had a higher moral,ethical, and social standard. But the historical record reveals that no such golden age ever existed on this continent; at least not since the year 1492.
Whether Paul Harvey was completely ignorant of American history or not. Whether or not he was even conscious of the fact that his essay expressed a racist sentiment, and regardless of his intent, the essay speaks for itself. Considering the historical record, only a racist could glorify America's past, while bemoaning it's decline.
Paul Harvey was not some uneducated guy who spent most of his life working in isolated logging camps. Nor was he an Iowa farm hand who had never traveled across the state line. Paul Harvey worked for a major news organization. He was in touch with events happening all over the world, for a good number of years; in fact, for an entire lifetime. To suggest that he simply didn't know about the atrocities committed by the colonizers, and the United States government, is absurd. Imagine a news broadcaster being challenged for praising the Nazi party, and then claiming not to know anything about the Holocaust! Who would believe him?
The Historical Record
The historical record shows:
As a result of the European Invasion, and the subsequent colonialist expansion throughout the continent, over 100 million Indigenous people were murdered, either with conventional weaponry or with the biological weapon of smallpox. And contrary to a popular myth, the smallpox epidemic that swept across the continent was no accident. Once the Catholic Church and the royal families of Europe understood that the Indigenous had no immunity to the smallpox virus, they could have suspended the flow of European immigrants. But instead, immigration continued unabated. At times, a more direct approach was taken. and blankets infected with the smallpox virus were purposely distributed among the Indigenous by the colonialists. One such incident is documented here: Colonial Germ Warfare
At the same time, Africans were being enslaved and forced to work the plantations, along with many Indigenous who were also enslaved.This is only a soundbyte of American History, but atrocity, after atrocity, was committed by the early colonialists, and then later the United States, for a period that spanned over 500 years.
Just like the preacher who gave the glorifying eulogy at the butchers funeral, Paul Harvey bemoans the demise of another kind of butcher. A butcher of men,women, and little children. It is only his sense of superiority that could lead to such an indifference to human suffering : a suffering that lasted for over 500 years, and a program of genocide that continues unto this very day. But according to Paul Harvey's essay, the Indigenous and the African are of no consequence. The atrocities committed against my ancestors do not stain the past glory of America, because to the racist mind, they are like the cows, the pigs, and the sheep. They are considered to be inferior, and so, they do not figure into the morality of the superior man.
A Closer Look At The Good Old Days
In this section I will take a closer look at "passive racism" by examining several excerpts from Harvey's essay and providing an analysis of each one.
Harvey: "I'd have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. [thee] So I should set about however necessary, to take over the United States."
Analysis: In this excerpt Harvey suggests that the United States is the " ripest apple on the tree". If he is suggesting this in a moral, ethical, or social sense, then he has crossed over into the realm of racist fiction; a fantasy world where the circumstances of the Indigenous, African, and Mixed Races are of no consequence. The only way that such a statement could ring true is perhaps in a materialistic sense; the amount of material wealth generated by the United States relative to the rest of the world. If this was his meaning, then we can understand that Harvey has equated materialism with success. But such a glorification of materialism directly contradicts the overall, self-righteous, religious tone of Harvey's essay.
Harvey:To the young I would whisper "The Bible is a myth." I would convince them that "man created God," instead of the other way around. I would confide that "what is bad is good and what is good is square."
Analysis: Here Harvey bemoans the perversion he sees corrupting the moral and social fabric of America, as if there was a time when such perversion did not exist; as if there was a time in America when "doing the right thing" was the order of the day!
He obviously does not figure the many atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus into his assessment of the "Good Old Days".
He does not figure the use of smallpox as a biological weapon into the equation, nor does he figure that more than one U.S. president owned slaves, and by doing so helped to perpetuate and prolong the institution of slavery.
He does not figure the "Trail of Tears"; which was set in motion by the " Indian Removal Act of 1830"; a crime against humanity that caused the deaths of over 4,000 Tsalagi alone, while opening up 25 million acres in the American South for white settlement. Among the 5 tribes, or nations that were relocated, ( Chickasaw,Choctaw,Creek,Seminole.Tsalagi) some have estimated the overall death toll to exceed 10,000 deaths, as a result of the forced relocation.
Of course the litany of atrocities committed against the Indigenous by the Americans goes on and on , but having made my point, I will proceed to the next.
Harvey: .. If I were the Devil I'd take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Then my police state would force everybody back to work.
Analysis: Hey Paul! Isn't that just what the colonialists, and the United States government did to the Indigenous? They took from those who "had" ( the Indigenous) and gave to those who wanted. ( the Americans) After breaking the will of the Indigenous people and killing their incentive, the police state forced them at gunpoint onto reservations.
Harvey: With flattery and promises of power I would get the courts to vote against God and in favor of pornography.
Analysis: Here I can only say, " Why