Racism Is a Loaded Gun, Colltalers
The tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was a calculated act of terrorism, its timing and victims carefully chosen, and the shooter’s intent crystal clear. And unlike the appearances, he was not alone.
So will this be it? We’ve lost track of how many times we came this close to do something about it, and we don’t mean going back the intervening century and a half that’s supposed to separate our era from the official end of the American Civil War.
We’re talking about less than a decade, for instance, and President Obama’s 2010 inauguration is as good a time to start counting as any. And still, we lost count of how many times racism has shown its raw, brutal face, and we failed to act.
So is time ripe enough now? Or again we’re about to engage in yet another exercise of self-delusion, by some, and convenient excuses, by others, and offer the ‘isolated nut’ theory as the scapegoat for this massacre, so most of us can go back to sleep?
The more we learn about the murder rampage in S. Carolina, the harder it is to adhere to the usual suspects school of thought, which seems ever so casual but comes from the same place that’s been brewing racism in this country since, well, ever.
Even if the despicable idea he (we’re not mentioning his name on this space) had was very likely his own, it wouldn’t have come out of his deranged mind if it weren’t for the environment of racial hatred that nurtured his upbringing.
Nothing was casual: besides choosing the church for its historical significance in 200 years of racial struggle, this young thug had already made clear his intention to harm black people on his Website, picked a particular night to attack, drove 120 miles to get to the city, and like any cold blood psychopath, sat down and talked with his victims before slaughtering them.
The fact that he’s a certified killer, though, doesn’t exempt his community – and us – of responsibility. He was given the tools, the hate rationale and motivation, even literally the weapon, and thus he must’ve felt chosen to be the one to pull the trigger.
In other words, to focus on his apparel and universally recognized white supremacist symbols (everything but the swastika?), may distract us from the crucial fact that he, and millions like him, remain sore and bent on resettling a score that the Civil War was supposed to have settled all those years ago; it’s as if only part of the grand illusion of racism was defeated on the battlefield.
Exactly why is it still alive and unwell in America? How is even possible that we tolerate state members of the union to openly profess segregation as a valid way of life, and racial hatred towards blacks (and one assumes, any race but white) as a matter of principle, while allowing Confederate Flags to be displayed in government buildings, and roads named after its heroes?
We don’t claim to know the answer but we offer that it may have something to do with so many still nurturing ill-feelings toward Jews, sex ‘minorities, feminists and civil rights activists. Or the growing contingent of ISIL volunteers. And yes, even those oh so well intentioned, who’ve declared racism over in this country, and still can’t quite consider it a serious threat.
For how’s that a young person develops such a stupefyingly flawed view of the world, where the methodical brutality of the Rhodesian regime, or the cruelty of Apartheid ideology, serve as cognitive beacons to their path in life, without a hint of the collective remorse we feel about the plight of millions of Africans who suffered or were exterminated under them?
The Charleston bloodbath is so completely engulfing on its message against racial equality, and specifically, in the way it signals towards some kind of evil final solution towards black people, that its meaning surpasses even the power of that other disgrace about life in America: easy guns. That may be a way to approach what happened but it can’t be the only way.
It’s a reductionist tactic to narrow and credit this barbaric act to how easy it is for anyone with a police record to acquire or, in this shooter’s case, to be gifted, with a gun. For there are already plenty of tragedies involving sick individuals with just a personal grudge against society. Even then, we haven’t changed any meaningful gun control law in their wake.
But it’s a scarier thought to think that this was not an isolated act, and the shooter, not a solitary wolf. This nation must show guts and accept that reality is indeed that bleak. And it’ll remain so if we don’t decide that enough’s enough.
For now we must keep on message and, if we’re to get anything done this time, then be done out of our revulsion against racism. Soon enough, we’ll sure to go back to another run-of-the-mill mass murder ignited by our ‘guns for everyone’ credo.
But will it be different this time around? Is it now the right time as it’ll ever be to reset this vicious cycle, and start treating racism as a crime worst than, say, protesting against government surveillance, or in favor of bringing troops home, or for the right of demand a better country for all Americans? Can we finally put a definitive end to the Civil War already?
We owe that to Revs. Clementa Pinkney, Daniel Simmons Sr., DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Sharonda Singleton, and to Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, and Myra Thompson. We owe it to all black people whose unjust death we’ve read daily on the papers. And we owe it those slaughtered in South Africa and in the former Rhodesia.
Above all, we owe it to ourselves to become the Americans who finally decided, unanimously and unequivocally, that we can’t live like that: either we commit as a whole population against racism, or tomorrow we’ll be reading about yet another massacre. It’ll definitely take more than contrived words and prayers for change, but it can be done. Have a peaceful summer. WC