The Reflexes of Racism

An excerpt from Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound (1970).

I am trying to establish the outlines of an understanding of myself in regard to what was fated to be the continuing crisis in my life, the crisis of racial awareness—the sense of being doomed by my history to be, if not always a racist, then a man always limited by the inheritance of racism, condemned to be always conscious of the necessity not to be a racist, to be always dealing deliberately with the reflexes of racism that are embedded in my mind as deeply at least as the language I speak.

2 thoughts on “The Reflexes of Racism

  1. Marcia Flora

    What is happening at our Southern border is a crisis! Crime rates in our cities (and everywhere for that matter) are a crisis. If racial awareness is the “crisis” in your life, then you must be a very blessed man with much to be thankful for and little to complain about! Many persons of all colors and cultures have truly devastating issues to deal with every day and you seem to minimize them by using “crisis” to describe your personal issue.

  2. I get what you are saying Marcia. My concern with your approach is that it diminishes the personal inventory and work that repentance requires. The crises that you name (the Southern border and crime rates in cities) are rooted in what Dr. King called “the giant triplets of evil:” racism, materialism and militarism. As Wendell Berry says, these are embedded in us. Not just conservatives and white men. All of us. What if a critical mass of us took these reflexes as seriously as Berry? Radical Discipleship is a site that is committed to our spiritual crisis – and our structural crises too. It’s a dialectical approach. – tommy airey, curator of

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