That post spawned a substantial comment thread, in which Peter Donis wrote:
"Apologists for slavery" is not the same as "racism". Slavery is an action, that is outlawed now; it's perfectly reasonable to say that apologists for an action that is outlawed should not be tolerated. But racism is not illegal, and it's not an action, it's a belief: the law can't control what people believe, and expecting it to is unreasonable. So is not tolerating it, as a belief: in any free country, people are going to have all kinds of offensive beliefs. That's the price we pay for having a free country.
*Actions* that violate people's rights are a different matter: the Lousiana judge's action was clearly wrong and he should be at the very least censured for it. But not because it was "racist": because it clearly denied a citizen the equal protection of the laws, which is guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth Amendment. That's all that should need to be said.
Yes, it's true that racism is a belief and not an action. But it is a belief that often results in action, and the actions it produces usually end up depriving dark-skinned people of their rights. I think that's a serious problem. But as Peter correctly observes, you can't regulate belief in a free society. So what to do?
Simply relying on the law is not enough. The 14th amendment has been in force for nearly 150 years, and in that time we've had Jim Crow, Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act (two of them!), and the Voting Rights Act. We've had George Wallace proudly proclaiming "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." We've had lynchings and the rise of the KKK. We've had Emmet Till and Rodney King and Terence Crutcher and Michael Brown and Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin.
Seriously, do you believe that Rene Boucher would have been charged with a misdemeanor for an assault on a U.S. senator resulting in six broken ribs if he had not been a rich white dude?
The law is not enough. And it cannot be enough in a free society. In a free society, people are free to be bigots. Racists are correct when they say that the road to tyranny is paved with government mandates. But if the law is not enough, what else is there?
Shame. The most effective way to eliminate a destructive behavior from society is not to make it illegal, it is to make it unfashionable. We wrote alchohol prohibition into the Constitution and it was an unmitigated disaster (a lesson Jeff Sessions seems to have forgotten). But tobacco use has plummeted 60% in 50 years despite remaining legal. Smoking is just not cool any more.
The way to eliminate racism is to paint racists as pathetic losers. And the best way to do that is to teach history.
I think it's really important to remember that racism was not always a dirty word in America. The Confederacy did not defend slavery as a necessary evil, nor even out of economic necessity or expediency, but rather as a straightforward logical consequence of natural law and God's will:
[T]he servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations...
That's from Texas's articles of secession. Read it again. Let the words sear themselves indelibly into your soul: "mutually beneficial to both bond and free." They genuinely believed that they were doing the niggers a favor by enslaving them. They genuinely believed (and could cite scripture to prove it) that they were doing God's will.
It sounds shocking today, but it was the majority view in the Confederacy. And if you think 1860 is ancient history, George Wallace was calling for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in 1963, and continued running on an openly racist platform for fifteen more years before he finally repented in 1979 (by which time it was far too late to salvage his reputation as the quintessential racist of the 20th century).
The view that blacks are so inherently inferior to whites that they can legitimately be held as property did not magically go away after the Civil War. Most of the people who believed it before the war still believed it after. And because reconstruction was botched, in the name of state's rights and opposing federal "tyranny", these bigots taught their children, and they taught their children, and so the idea has promulgated through the generations. It has mutated and attenuated; no one openly calls for the restoration of slavery any more. It is no longer fashionable to openly call for segregation (though that doesn't stop everyone). But the idea that blacks (and hispanics and Muslims) are inferior to whites lives on.
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and John Kelly and all of the other Confederate apologists are the intellectual and spiritual heirs of proud defenders of slavery. Whether they realize it or not, whether they consciously advocate it or not, they are advancing a point of view that is irredeemably rooted in the once-popular idea that black people should be the property of white people, and that this is the natural order of things and the will of God.
It is my firm belief that when presented with these facts, people will reject racism, that it cannot survive in the bright light of this truth. Like a vampire, racism depends on cloaking itself in darkness and obfuscation. It depends on denial. It depends on distancing itself from the past (even as it longs for a return to the past) because the truth is that it is born of slavery and inextricably linked to slavery. And thank God almighty I don't have to try to convince people any more than slavery is evil (though 150 years ago I surely would have had to).
To paraphrase MLK (who was paraphrasing Theodore Parker), the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice. Sooner or later the racists will lose, so if you want to be on the right side of history, if you want a seat at the cool kids table, if you want to be able to stand up proudly in front of your grandchildren, you must reject racism and racists. You must shun them. You must shame them. You must call them out when they try to hide behind the "honor of the Confederacy" and "states rights." You must shine the light in the dark places where this evil has festered for the last 150 years. And then, when the racists have been driven from the public square and the halls of power, maybe at long last we can raise a generation that is finally free of this scourge.