Please read Part One before continuing…
Societal unforgiveness is further tightening its coils through microagression theory. Dr. Derald Wing Sue says, “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” Sue says most microagressions happen on a subconscious level.
Microaggression theory is a Catch 22. Little distinction is made between actual and perceived prejudice. If I claim no negative feelings and take no negative actions against “marginalized groups,” I nevertheless harm them unconsciously. If I march around with a “God hates fags” sign or attend a KKK rally, I’m prejudiced. If I do none of those things and feel disgusted by them I’m still prejudiced, I just don’t know it.
A white woman who clutches her purse when passing a latino man commits a microaggression; she’s subconsciously expressing racism. (By the way, who is appointed to divine the contents of another person’s subconscious, and how will they do that?) Or is the woman clutching her purse to protect herself from the latino man’s microaggression? He subconsciously expresses male superiority and the sexual objectification of women. Who’s the perp here? I’m confused.
It troubles me to think about legislation based on microaggression theory. Imagine laws that claim to divine the subconscious motives of entire groups of people because they are deemed “privileged.” But what’s more disturbing is this: Microaggression theory provides a deeply nuanced justification for unforgiveness. Regardless of what a person does or says, I can hold against them whatever subconscious bias I assign them. Because that other person belongs to a “privileged” race, sex, or socio-economic status, they are guilty de facto and deserve my grievance.
Another side of all this societal unforgiveness is the Pharisee-effect. As I’ve said, when we fixate on the wrong others have done us, we fail to notice unforgiveness stealing and steeling our hearts. But unforgiveness isn’t the only sin we fail to own. When we constantly look at and decry the sins of others, we stop seeing *any* of our sins. We start to derive our righteousness from the failings of others. If we do this long enough, we eventually see ourselves as the faultless crusader against whatever social ill we think needs curing.
This perspective is unbiblical: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If any group–whether privileged or marginalized–is without sin, they should throw the first stone (John 8:7).
In the history of the world, there has only been one truly innocent victim–Jesus Christ. He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). He was executed at the hands of privilege. The religious, social, and economic powers of the day condemned Him on false charges. His trial was a joke. Soldiers beat Him until He barely looked human. What was Jesus’s response to all this? “Father forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
When did Jesus utter this fault-line mending phrase? After the Romans paid Him reparations for their past injustices? After the Supreme Court ruled on His behalf? After the legislature made religious discrimination illegal? No. Jesus forgave as He suffocated and bled to death, circled by the human vultures that hated Him.
Satan is another story. One of his nicknames is “accuser” (Rev. 12:10). His MO is to condemn us based on increasingly nuanced expectations. As a society, we need to decide whether to side with the forgiveness of Christ or the accusation of the devil. As we decide, we should remember what sin Jesus said would not be forgiven. Was it racism? Sexism? Homophobia? No. It was unforgiveness: “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matt. 6:14-15).
4 Comments Add yours
Hey Teague — thanks for this; one thing I will point out is that the conundrum of “whose microaggression is it, anyway” when a woman clutches her purse is usually talked about in terms of what’s called “intersectionality”, and the scenario you raise is discussed in some detail here: http://www.writewhereithurts.net/what-should-i-do-when-im-walking-behind-or-passing-a-white-woman-late-at-night-on-the-street/
I agree with your fundamental premise that what we’ve got here are essentially unfalsifiable arguments; it strikes me as being basically the secular version of Calvinism (with that comparison being made explicit by the various public figures who refer to racism and slavery as America’s “original sin”, implying that “America” — read “white America” — bears the “original guilt” for it, and thus suffers from “total depravity” via default passive complicity).
I also think that, as much as that sucks and isn’t fair, it boils down to what serious wound care looks like: it’s ugly, it’s painful, you’re having to deal with a lot of stinking and rotten flesh, and it doesn’t really matter whose fault it is, somebody has to debride it. There are better and worse ways of doing that, of course, but I think the reason why we’ve got all the terminology accusations flying about is because we’re trying to work out exactly how we can do what we need to do as a fundamentally secular society.
Whether or not that is possible to do as a fundamentally secular society is, of course, a different question.
Thanks, Richard. Yep, these are complex, multi-faceted issues. Thanks for the link to that article. I read through it & it does hit on some similar themes. Your comparison between American race issues & Calvinism is outside the box & interesting. I think it’s fair in many ways. I’ll have to ponder that further! I appreciate you taking time to read & comment 🙂