Drawing the Right Lessons from Charleston
Pulling down the Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol is a step in the right direction. But our country’s problem with race won’t be solved by one long-overdue gesture.
Note the ridiculous comments online and on television in the days after the Charleston church massacre. Too many people continue to believe the preposterous notion that minorities are to blame for the nation’s racial woes.
Thee Rant, an online law enforcement community, was ablaze with embarrassingly hate-filled missives about … the victims.
“I really don't give a shyt that these ....people...were gunned down,” one person wrote, as quoted in the Village Voice. “Maybe because I'm sick and tired of 'their' community ruining everything they touch.”
Another comment: “who amongst us didn’t see this coming? It’s horrible when any innocent person is killed, but we all knew some nut was going to get sick of all this racial %%*% and go postal.”
Others have sought to portray Dylann Roof’s murder of nine men and women at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church as anti-Christian, not anti-black. This despite the fact that Roof purportedly told investigators that his goal was to start a race war.
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Then there is the popular argument that Roof is merely mentally ill, and therefore not a representative of a larger group of racists. This a guy who, in the process of murdering nine black people, exclaimed, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
Roof might be crazy. But he is hardly all alone. As we learn more about the white supremacists who inspired him, it is clear that these murders were a political act, based on a deeply rooted ideology of racism.
This “racial %%*%,” as the Thee Rant writer called it, is a description by whites of everything that antagonizes them about the struggle for civil rights, from protests against police violence to the nation’s first black President.
The horror in Charleston pulled a lot of people up short, including the Republican presidential candidates who are scrambling to return big checks from Dylan Roof’s white supremacist mentors. But racism is engrained in our politics and institutions.
There is a direct connection between this latest atrocity and the bombing that killed four black schoolgirls in Birmingham in 1963.
That politicians including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took money from the leader of a white nationalist group, Council of Conservative Citizens, is abhorrent. That they are giving this money back or to charity is not enough; the group’s racist ideologies, masked in a southern gentility, are well known. To this day, racism is an explicit part of the Republicans’ “Southern strategy.”
It’s time for us to stop glossing over that ugly reality. Continuing on the way we are only makes the murders in Charleston more unbearable.