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Minds that Hate: A Meditation on Racially-Charged Rioting

There was a time, as a member of a white supremacist organization, that I rejoiced as I witnessed riots and the breakdown of relations between the black population and the police.

A protester near the White House in Washington holds his hands up May 30, 2020. (CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters)

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you’ll have to wait.
— John Lennon (From the lyrics of “Revolution” by the Beatles)

The recent racially-charged rioting across the United States has been described as the worst civil unrest in this country since the wave of rioting that followed in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. In the same year as the King assassination riots, John Lennon wrote the Beatles song “Revolution” as a protest against the use of violence by “people with minds that hate”. In the previous year, Lennon had penned “All You Need is Love”, which was released as a single in July and would become the anthem of the so-called “summer of love”.

It was ironic, therefore, that the “summer of love” in 1967 could be followed a year later by months of hate-filled riots on both sides of the Atlantic in which many of the perpetrators were the same hippies who had preached “peace and love” and worn flowers in their hair only a few months earlier.

What went wrong? Was there something wrong and wrong-headed about the “love” that Lennon told us we needed which metamorphosed so quickly into hatred? And what lessons can the “love” of 1967 and the “hate” of 1968 teach us about the riots in contemporary America?

If “love” is something we need, as Lennon insisted, and not something we are commanded to do or to give, our demand for “love” can turn to a hatred of those who don’t give us what we feel that we need. If love is something like food, which we need and cannot live without, we will feel that we have a right to demand that we be given it and will feel aggrieved if we don’t get it. Against this demand for love is the command to love that we have received from God. Christ doesn’t command our neighbor to love us, he commands us to love our neighbor. It’s not about my right to receive the love I need but about my duty to sacrifice myself in giving love to others. It’s not about me and my needs but about the needs of my neighbor. It’s not about my rights but about my responsibilities.

When my rights supplant my responsibilities, my rights become wrongs. And this is why those who demand Lennon’s “need love” turn all too quickly into “people with minds that hate”.

Having discussed love in these general terms, we can see how misperceptions about love, as exemplified by the songs of John Lennon, are having such a destructive impact on contemporary politics, especially with regard to the relationship between the races. The love we are commanded to give to our neighbor is color blind. It’s about the dignity of the human person as a being made in the image of God, irrespective of his physical appearance or his physical abilities or disabilities.

Those who refuse this color blindness, insisting instead on seeing people in terms of their skin color, are being racist, even if they call themselves “anti-racists”. Those who see all white people as oppressors, simply because of the color of their skin, are seeing things through a racist perspective. The ancestors of African Americans were brought to this country by slave-traders who were no doubt racists. How else could they ply their disgusting trade? But the ancestors of the vast majority of European Americans were not slave traders but immigrants, many of whom were economic refugees and some of whom were fleeing from religious or racial persecution. It is simply unjust to see all whites as being tarred with the same brush as the slave-traders.

If racism can be defined as seeing a person in terms of his race and not in terms of his inherent dignity as a human person, we can say that those who call themselves anti-racists are as racist as the racists themselves. And the sad and sordid fact is that much more racial hatred is being caused by those “anti-racists” who see everything in terms of race than by the tiny fraction of the population who are white supremacists.

The anger and rioting which we’ve seen across the United States since the killing of George Floyd are a direct consequence of the racializing of politics. It is presumed that George Floyd was killed because he was an African American and not for any other reason, and it is presumed that all white police officers are racists and are therefore presumed to be guilty of racism until proven innocent. It is presumed, of course, that Derek Chauvin is a racist, though no actual evidence of this has been produced thus far, and it is intriguing that he and Mr. Floyd worked at the same night club and would presumably have interacted on a personal level prior to the tragic incident which led to Mr. Floyd’s death. It is also intriguing, though not deemed relevant by the media or the rioters, that Mr. Floyd had what the head of the Minneapolis police union has called a “violent criminal history”, including a five year prison sentence for assault and robbery, as well as convictions for theft with firearms and for drug-related offenses. None of this justifies the brutality of his arrest but why are no other motives beyond the presumed racism being discussed or investigated?

Many years ago—in 1981 to be precise, and long before my conversion—I had been present at the infamous Brixton riots in which the African-Caribbean population of that part of London rioted in protest against the “racism” of the London police, at the very same time, ironically, that this same “racist” police department was also charging me for “inciting racial hatred”, a charge for which I would be sent to prison a few months later. At the time, as a member of a white supremacist organization, I rejoiced as I witnessed the riots and the breakdown of relations between the black population and the police. I hoped in the depth of my hate-filled heart that it would lead to the violent meltdown of the multiracial society.

My feelings of elation in those dark and far-off days are not unlike the elation being felt by members of Antifa and other extremist groups as they witness a similar meltdown in contemporary America. And this is the final and most sobering lesson to be learned from these riots. Nobody will benefit from this racially-charged violence except the people with minds that hate.


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About Joseph Pearce 21 Articles
Joseph Pearce is the author of numerous literary works including Literary Converts, The Quest for Shakespeare and Shakespeare on Love,Poems Every Catholic Should Know (TAN Books) and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press), and the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series. His other books include literary biographies of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A native of England, he is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Visit his website at jpearce.co.

29 Comments

    • Yes, the same Gandhi whose every “non-violent” protest mysteriously turned into violence. Probably not the best example to use.

      • A million Indians — literally — were killed by their fellow Indians in the wake of the British pullout. Ghandi also allowed his own wife to die rather than accept meds that would have saved her No saint he. Reminds me of Mr Floyd, who was on fentanyl when he died.

  1. We are in a very dangerous and hate filled time in our country.Fueled by domestic
    and foreign enemies at the same time. The scariest part is the fact 26% of our citizens along with a more then willing MSM have “Shepherded”this evil along for the last 55 years.The Devil is smiling from ear to ear as he accepts the boarding passes of the mob waiting to cross The River Styx,and into his eternity.

  2. Joseph — Very well articulated. Your courage in confessing your past transgressions is commendable and refreshingly honest. MLK wisely exhorts us to judge men by the “content of their character, not by the color of their skin.”

    Unfortunately, have a “hate filled mind” is not only a white cancer. Has there ever been a race that has resisted the tendency to produce haters?

    Hate is a character defect, rooted in evil.

    You are living testimony that poorly formed character can be healed and even ennobled when men embrace transcendent truths and God’s grace. MLK walked with good folks irrespective of race. He knew the deep meaning of love to a degree that he was willing to lay down his life for it. THAT IS CHARACTER!

    We must all consider this: What kind of character formation produces men and women who kill innocent people in protest of the unjust killing of a man of any race?

    “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change.” Michael Jackson

    • are you serious? White ? white only? no black racist? iv’e travelled most of the world and am multilingual. I’ve heard deep cuttingh racist remarks in every country I went, including all over asia. To call out ‘white’ is surely racist and will cause a great deal of trouble. Calling people racists as a means to obliterate the problem is ridiculous.. the press , the schools do that and as we can see, not too many hearts are changed! Bad article, in my opinion. Racism is everywhere , among all peoples. To pick out one group is racism. The term is becoming nauseating. But let’s get it straight. The ‘White thing is a leftist trick. Imagine , after amid this Clergy crisis, priests still going extreme left. Our pastor told us, for example, to vote for climate change, not abortion. Monica Hellweg stated some 35 years ago, The clergy is the problem. She was right.

  3. “The ancestors of African Americans were brought to this country by slave-traders who were no doubt racists. How else could they ply their disgusting trade? But the ancestors of the vast majority of European Americans were not slave traders but immigrants, many of whom were economic refugees and some of whom were fleeing from religious or racial persecution. It is simply unjust to see all whites as being tarred with the same brush as the slave-traders.”

    ***********

    Well, I do think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Slavery originally had nothing to do with race. At the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade Europeans were still being kidnapped & sold as slaves to North Africa & the Ottoman Empire. It’s been estimated that over a million Europeans were captured & enslaved. Some coastal areas of the Mediterranean became virtually unpopulated. Even Ireland suffered slave raids during that period.

    African slaves were sold to European traders by other Africans. Slavery had a very long history in Africa, as it did in the Americas & virtually everywhere else. Cuba & Brazil-which is where the largest percentage of African slaves arrived- didn’t end slavery until the late 1800’s.

    Anyone whose ancestors lived in the American British colonies-which is a huge number of us-either had ancestors who owned slaves, were enriched in some way by slavery, or were a slave themselves. The first person in colonial America to claim chattel slave ownership was a person of mixed race.

    Slaves once freed sometimes purchased their own slaves. Where I live there are numerous plantations that were once owned by wealthy slave owners who were themselves people of color.

    Poor immigrants, including Jews escaping religious persecution, bought slaves once they prospered. It was a sign of social status & a more expensive but perhaps safer bet than purchasing a British convict. Convicts could be had more cheaply & were therefore more expendable. A British child convict could be bought for a few pounds.

    The British American colonies were completely intertwined with slavery & the slave trade. Over 40% of colonial New York City homes owned slaves.
    You didn’t have to run a slave ship to be involved in the trade & prosper from it. Respectable people in places like Rhode Island owned shares in the slave ships.

    I hear much about “America’s original sin.” It wasn’t “The United States of America” in the beginning. It was land occupied/claimed by the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, & others. Beyond that, what of the poor Indians? If we’re calling out sins surely the treatment of American Indians would be one of the first thing to consider? To this day many folks on Indian reservations have no running water.

    A couple good things to say for the British: they actually freed American slaves who helped the British cause during the Revolution. At least one of George Washington’s slaves found freedom that way. There are Black Loyalist descendants living in Canada today. The British kept their word & evacuated their freed ancestors to Nova Scotia.

    The British ended slavery way before we did & they accomplished that with no bloodshed.

    • slavery has been around as long as mankind. IT was practiced by the Greeks and Romans in particular, and as you point out, also by African tribes. The Native Americans here have indeed had a rough road. But back in the day they gave as good as they got. Bloody accounts of many Indian attacks have made it into the history books. That they were eventually overwhelmed by superior numbers and weaponry does not mitigate the bloody attacks in which they participated. American indians too, were well known to retain as slaves some captured enemies, that includes white people, and accounts exist of such captivity. In the midst of these riots in which many have lost their lives, I find the call by some for “reparations” ( presumably paid by those who never owned slaves. to those who in turn were never slaves themselves.) I think it is time to stop looking backward in history by hundreds of years for justification for todays vengeance,and time for racists on both sides to realize their time has ended. It’s time to acknowledge the reality that the odd psychopath does not represent a whole occupation or race,and is not in fact :institutional ” racism. Its time for people of good will to speak up a little louder for what is RIGHT. That does NOT include burning and killing–for which there can NEVER be justification.

      • lj
        “The Native Americans here have indeed had a rough road. But back in the day they gave as good as they got. Bloody accounts of many Indian attacks have made it into the history books.”
        ****
        For sure. The Comanches were incredibly brutal. Neighboring Indian tribes suffered terrible violence from them as well.

        If we were invaded by an occupying foreign power I imagine we’d fight back also.
        You can’t fix the past but we can learn from it. A little knowledge of history goes a long way & helps us to question some of the dodgy narratives furthered by the media.

    • Well said! This is a very clear explanation of the slave trade. Thank you for putting it out there. Perhaps someone who reads this will do some reading and expand their knowledge because they certainly won’t gain it from the Media or all but a minority of colleges who still teach the truth. Steubenville and Hillsdale come to mind.

    • Yes. We are all “born in sin.” And NONE of the self-righteous protestors come from long lines of saints. Forgive. Love. Think of Ben Hur’s line at the end of the 1959 movie. Hatred is worse than “literal” slavery.

    • Yours is a thoughtful and commendable post. I wish more people filled their comments as you have with thought and less with emoting.

  4. Love is indeed something we need, but it is not ALL we need – I was well aware that we needed love long before John Lennon deigned to tell me – us so.

    “Imagine there’s no heaven – it’s easy if you try
    No hell below us above us only sky.”

    In about 50 years this country has come from Bull Connor to Barack Obama. In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that the day will come when my children will be judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character.” IMO that day has come, indeed has been here for a while.

    But

    There is still a long way to go, and there are also those who exploit gullible people and keep them stirred up, etc.

    “Peaceful protesters do not arrive with hammers and Molotov cocktails. burn police cars, smash the windows of business or spray graffiti on St. Patrick’s Cathedral – criminal opportunists and vandals so.”

  5. I must ask……just because a white officer of the law kills a black criminal does that mean that it racist? Understand I am NOT condoning the officer’s actions but I am questioning labeling it racist. Must the media play the racist card EVERYTIME something like this happens? Does anyone know of the past behavior of the officer in question? Has he displayed racist behavior before? This is the minimum we should know before people go around breaking windows and setting fire to buildings?

    • Good points. Unfortunately, we have become a culture that reacts emotionally and irrationally before knowing all the facts, or even caring about them. That’s a dangerous place to be in as a society.

    • Jeff Bishop,
      Ive wondered about that also especially after seeing photos of the other officers involved in the incident. One was white, one Asian, and one appears black or mixed race.
      You apparently have a racially diverse group of law enforcement officers arresting someone under the influence of drugs.
      Why wouldn’t the first thought be whether these are bad or badly trained police rather than racist police?

    • “Must the media play the race card every time something like this happens?”

      A good question, and in my opinion the answer is, sadly – yes.

      • Well, at least the archbishop of WDC is out in front on this. Man of the people that he is.
        McCarrick report? When?
        After McCarrick meets his Maker, that’s when and only then.

  6. The word “neighbor” had a different meaning to the people of Jesus’ time. For Jewish people it generally meant “fellow Jews”. Jesus reminded them that people from other ethnic groups could also qualify as “neighbors” depending on their behavior (think: good Samaritans), but it still didn’t mean simply “others” or “everybody” as we tend to think today.

    • The message of the gospel, the message of Jesus turned the world upside down. His message is unequivocal. Our attitude and actions toward all is one of love. Love in all its various meanings and applications. God is Love. I’m no bible translator so you may be correct in saying the word Aramaic or greek translated “neighbour” didn’t mean simply “others” or “everybody” as we tend to think today but I do know that the Word made Flesh calls us to know, think and act love. Any use of power without love, any coercion any manipulation is not of God.

      • Right. And I guess you expect us to believe that the vicious, unrelenting, false accusations against Cardinal Pell you routinely posted on this site demonstrated Christ-like “love in all its various meanings and applications.” You should read Romans chapter 1 for a good description of what happens to people who forsake the light of truth.

        • I expect that you are capable of understanding that those with a different perspective may have something worth considering and that they are not your enemy. Wether you agree with me or not, you are not my enemy. You would have noticed that many times I stated that i did not know if or not The Cardinal was guilty of the offence he was on trial for. My main purpose was to show that Mr Weigel’s perspective was not an accurate narrative of what is the lived reality of the Catholic Church in Melbourne and Ballarat in particular. That Mr Weigel’s portrayal of the secular attitude to Cardinal Pell while relevant in many respects is very selective and narrow and used to negate the wider reality of his subject matter. His narrative is selective and myopic. Everything I posted, I have where relevant provided links to a legitimate source of information most of which I had prior knowledge of before the year 2000 and people here have been consistent in refusing to acknowledge that there is any legitimacy to the content of the information offered even though I have personal, relational links to much of it.
          One example I haven’t mentioned here, My Uncle Frank Sutherland was on the Parish council at Oakleigh the Foster’s parish.
          Another, My friends mother, a Mrs Kelly was a teacher at Doveton at the Time Fr Searson was there.
          Another colleague, Helen Last, and I where in a Catholic Small Group and bible study. Helen was the counsellor hired by the Catholic Church in Melbourne to assist victims of clerical abuse.
          Helen is not a liar. She is a diligent hard working honest advocate.

          Much has been said or implied about me, that I hate Cardinal Pell, that I’m not a “real catholic” etc etc. Now your contribution, an instruction from you to me:
          ” You should read Romans chapter 1 for a good description of what happens to people who forsake the light of truth.”
          Well I just read it all and know what you are saying to me. Pleas look at everything i have written and show me where I have shown hate and i will confess and ask forgiveness, if there is misunderstanding I will endeavour to clarify my statements and meanings.
          Please watch this video where Helen speaks of her work at the time just before and during when Cardinal Pell took over from Archbishop Little. Please keep in mind what has been revealed in recent years about the Papal Secret pertaining to Clerical abuse of children and young teenagers.
          https://www.abc.net.au/lateline/former-catholic-church-worker-says-she-was/7256544

          • May I offer a bible verse:

            “Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. 2.And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing. 3.Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever. 4.Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, 5.it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. 6.Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. 7.It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. 8.Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with. 9.For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly; 10.but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with. 11.When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways. 12.Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known. 13.As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.”
            1 Corinthians, 13 – Bíblia Católica Online

            Leia mais em: https://www.bibliacatolica.com.br/new-jerusalem-bible/1-corinthians/13/

          • “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.” John 8:44

            You can write long or short posts, include all kinds of websites, or quote extended portions of scripture to your heart’s content, but the reality is that no one here buys what you are selling. No one here believes your lies except you, and to be in a place where you actually believe your own lies is both desperate and spiritually dangerous. You see, you already showed your hand on any number of occasions in the Pell case, and that revealed the true intentions of your heart. Your assessment was never unbiased or honest; you tried to prove your conclusion from the beginning. Most of the thoughtful people on this site (Fr. Morello excepted) saw through your efforts and called you out on that.

            Your most recent comments on the spiritual value and importance of love would be laughable were they not so deeply hypocritical. Examining your own spiritual life, acknowledging and repenting of your own sins, making restitution for the harm that you and you alone have done, might be a better use of your time than lecturing people here about spiritual truths. Your reputation precedes you, and you have no authority or credibility to speak to any of these important issues.

      • C Hallam you’re devoted to justice as is clear in your efforts at unbiased assessment of the Pell affair. If I may offer a thought on Justice as it essentially refers to love of our brother [Aquinas]. Mystery is the strata of love as revealed to Man in Christ. As we pierce these underlying layers often pleasant frequently painful mystery unfolds. Suffering an anomaly is inseparable from that divine love of the Savior. Intellectually it’s easily understood, in practice the point of departure either back to accommodation, or bravely forward our motives, acts increasingly purified Justice as ordained by God realized in us. Although you regularly refer to Cardinal Pell’s trial and most here disagree you provide a needed different perspective as an Australian with first hand background experience. Judgment, justice itself demands nothing less than impartiality especially in a Church and world where the heinous crime of sexual abuse of the young has been protected by those who should be the most ardent in protecting them. As with the Racial hatred and rioting in America there are carpetbaggers who exploit for personal gain in the Church, priests, some bishops and cardinals. Whether Cardinal Pell is entirely free of responsibility or not he certainly has paid a price. Whatever the case we owe as sinful creatures a benefit of the doubt at least to the degree that responsibility for these crimes is often a wide mutual responsibility of clergy and laity. You may not succeed in changing minds on this forum though you can contribute to a better understanding of Justice by your own.

        • Father Peter, thank you for you comment.
          Regarding this in particular:

          “Whether Cardinal Pell is entirely free of responsibility or not he certainly has paid a price. Whatever the case we owe as sinful creatures a benefit of the doubt at least to the degree that responsibility for these crimes is often a wide mutual responsibility of clergy and laity.”

          I agree entirely with respect to Cardinal Pell.
          Given the reality that there was a consistent pattern, from nation to nation, across the globe, in the manner in which the Bishops and Cardinals responded to specific cases of abuse by Clergy under their mandate, the following brings into focus a critical aspect for understanding truth in this matter. There has been much commentary on this consistent response with no mention of the following. It is essential, in order to to understand this consistent response that the the Canon law pertaining to the Papal Secret originating in the instruction of Crimen Sollicitationis of 1922 be known and understood.
          The Instruction, Crimen Sollicitationis of 1922:

          There are several aspects of this decree which are of particular importance. They will be listed here and covered in greater detail later in this paper:
          Thomas Doyle, Voice from the Desert, March 12, 2010

          a. The document was sent to every bishop in the world

          b. Absolute secrecy was imposed on the document itself.

          c. Three other sexual crimes committed by clerics were also to be investigated and prosecuted according to the norms of the instruction: same sex relations, sexual abuse of minors and bestiality.

          d. The highest degree of secrecy, the Secret of the Holy Office, was imposed on everyone involved in the process from the time it started. Violation meant immediate excommunication.
          [http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2010/03_04/2010_03_12_Doyle_VeryImportant.htm]
          Surely responsibility for this dynamic of silence must rest in major part in the proclamation of Crimen Sollicitationis of 1922.

          One must have sympathy for the position Cardinal Pell and all other leaders of the Faith where put in as a result of responding to the instances of Clerical abuse under their watch and sphere of responsibility being compelled to follow the the instructions of Crimen Sollicitationis of 1922

          • Nonetheless the fact remains Cardinal Pell repudiated the allegations not only of his alleged abuse but also insinuations that he concealed the crimes of other clergy. Neither allegation has been proven. My point remains, justice requires we offer at least the benefit of the doubt to the person exonerated. That of itself is just.

  7. MLK, Jr. discovered that without decent jobs for all, racism is a tough nut to crack. George Floyd should have been at work at a $32hr. job and the cops should have been at a ballgame. Instead we get the MEAN Society, bombs abroad, war on workers at home. Poverty kills. The Poor Peoples Campaign understands this as we recover MLK’s Solidarity Economics and push for good jobs for all. Please join us!

  8. It’s like I’m alive
    For the very first time
    I take a breath of air
    And a glass of red wine
    I feel the passion
    Flowing through my veins
    Like things will never
    Be the same

    It’s like every day
    Is a brand new start
    The Son comes shining
    Straight to my heart
    Lifting me up
    Higher and higher
    Fanning the flames
    Of his holy fire

    Rich and Poor
    Will be no more
    His justice and mercy
    will even the score
    And his powerful hand
    Will heal Brocken hearts
    when evening comes
    We will walk in the garden
    Again

    Walk in his garden again
    Wet with rain

    It’s like I’m alive
    For the very first time
    take a breath of air
    a glass of red wine
    A loaf of bread
    broken in two
    When we do
    We’ll be thinking of you
    Jesus

    C Hallam 2011

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