Thursday, June 18, 2015
Reflections on Terror in Charleston
Ironically, day before yesterday my wife and I were having a conversation. I was thinking about the huge increase in militias, hate groups plus the increased rhetoric around hate, racism and the absurd denial by politicians who don't even recognize the racism that surrounds us every day. With a sigh, I told her that we were not dealing with it now, and things could get a lot worse if we don't.
The very next day, I hear of the terror attack in Charleston. I'd love to say I was surprised. But I wasn't. Saddened, yes. Angry? That also. But how could I be surprised in a climate of hate that surrounds us each day? A world where police continue to gun down unarmed citizens and target black and brown people as if they were somehow inherently evil by virtue of the color of their skin. A world where educational priorities go to affluent white neighborhoods at the expense of those without resources. A world where prisons operate for profit and there is an incentive to arrest and incarcerate. A world where preschool and early elementary kids are expelled from school because of the incompetence of their teachers.
Two news broadcasts stand out in my mind. One I didn't see but heard about. Fox News who as a matter of policy denies that racism even exists, decrying the very idea this was a racist attack or a hate crime. In their fantastical world that is not possible. I listened to a broadcast on so called liberal MSNBC where it was noted this was the worst mass killing in South Carolina's history. Um I suppose if you ignore the lynchings, the state sanctioned killing of 33 black folks involved in a slave revolt, mostly from this very church. Everyone acts as if this were a singular event. I suppose that's essential if you're trying to preserve the myth of white supremacy. But reality, yeah I know, uncommon these days, demands that one acknowledge the open racism, the blatant attempts by politicians to exploit that divide for their own benefit, the ongoing attacks on black and brown people around the country by a whole bevy of so called "lone wolves." Privilege demands I think, that we ignore the real role we as white people are playing in this ongoing slaughter.
Here's truth however. The population of white vs non white Americans is changing and whites are moving towards what will be a clear minority. If we persist in this evil that grants us privilege over others, and allows us to label each perpetrator of these heinous crimes as a lone wolf, a disturbed individual, but not part of a larger event, the anger of a people thus denied justice or fairness can only grow. If we scream bloody murder about a small group of New Black Panthers carrying arms while militias and white gun freaks tote their weapons openly and with abandon, that anger will grow. White people, the choice is ours to make. Confront our own racism, our own privilege and work towards healing of our humanity of which we all are a part, or sit about complacent in our advantages and face a bloody resurrection sometime in the future that will truly hurt us all. Those of us who are white must raise our heads out of the sand and confront our own evil. We must work together to end these killings by a succession of terrorists that seem to have no end. I chose the photo of the Edmond Pettus Bridge. Because the struggles of the early slaves and freedmen in America, of the Civil War, of Jim Crow laws the divide, and of Mass Incarceration that serves the wealthy seeking low wage workers are all part of one struggle.
I look at the history of this church. Good people, prayerful people, people committed to justice and fairness. The wrong people lost their lives. My prayers join that of many others for them, for their families, and for their community. My prayer also is that this will serve as an awakening within white people everywhere. We must actively join our black and brown brothers and sisters and and strike a death blow to that evil we call racism. If we can construct racism, we can take it apart. But it's going to take all of us. Listen to the black people you know. Here there stories and embrace them We've listened to our own lies for generations. Now it is time to hear their truth and to be moved by it. This killing was NOT an isolated event. It's part of an ongoing national history, a part of an ongoing national shame, and it's got to end, sooner rather than later. We need to confront media when it gets it wrong. We need to openly advocate regardless if it costs us friends. The killing and injustice must end.
May it be so.