So said Nerd Child to me when I was upset a few months back, about a (very minor in the scheme of things) racist comment directed towards him and a friend. I get his point. He’s a smart and awe-inspiringly rational person–because of this, he is, I’m sure, better poised to make changes in our world, changes in how people approach the world, than his hotheaded blabberfingers mother.
No question, there is value and wisdom in taking the long view of social ills. As I’ve said before, however, there is also risk. Risk of denial, risk of distorted views, plain old risk involved in sweeping these ills under the rug in favor of a false “no problem here!” presentation.
I am, of course, talking about the deaths last night of 9 innocent people in Charleston, South Carolina. A shooting that was a hate crime. At a prayer meeting in a church–the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a church with a long, proud history. Proud unless you’re a white supremacist/separatist, in which case you’re likely having very different thoughts than I am right now. Supposedly, the suspect sat in the prayer meeting for an hour before making the statement that they were “taking over the country and raping our women.” Because those human beings who opened their prayer meeting to him were a real, direct threat to his date nights and our national security, yes? <<NO! I shouldn’t have to spell out that the previous sentence is sarcasm, but apparently I do, judging by the things I’ve seen and heard online today.
I don’t know how legitimate the above quote is. Maybe it’s a misquote, maybe it was spun out of thin air. But can I believe it’s real? Yes I can. Because just the other day, Donald Trump announced he’s running for President of the United States. Trump. Do I think he has a snowball’s chance? Nope. But. I saw comments referring to him as a good idea because he’s a businessman. True, he’s a businessman, and I think I read he’s worth something like 4 billion dollars. He’s also declared bankruptcy four times. Included in the gems of his announcement speech Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people…” So…the shooter in South Carolina was singing the same song as Donald Trump? You might be thinking, of course not–Trump was referring to undocumented immigrants, and the shooter was referring to African Americans. What I hear is: They. Them. America is not a business. If it were, we might recognize our people–all of them–are our assets. In a country where someone like Donald Trump can be taken seriously by anyone as a candidate for President, we’ve got issues, and we need to air out this rug.
So I’m just going to try and clarify a few things here, from my muddled-by-sorrow point of view. This is OUR problem, America. OUR shame, not some shadowy boogeyman named, They. Despite what too many want to pretend, it isn’t a relic of the past that’s no longer in use, nor is it a secret. Not “just” one lone, hateful lunatic, either. If it was, this wouldn’t be a news story we see play out over and over again.
If it was, the flags wouldn’t be flying at half staff today at the capitol of South Carolina. Columbia, SC. One of those flags isn’t, by the way. Which one? The confederate flag, of course. The very fact that there are confederate flags flying openly anywhere in America is the problem. There is no pride in a confederate flag. That is our shame. Just today, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas is not violating the First Amendment by banning confederate flags on license plates. Why? Because it’s fucking wrong! It’s racism, it’s vile, if you can’t join the 21st century go ahead and keep it to yourself. If you want to honor those who died fighting in the Civil War and display the flag they fought for and under, I don’t get it, but go ahead and keep it in a museum with all the other interesting and long outdated relics. Study it, learn from it, but don’t wave it as a symbol of modern America.
If it wasn’t a problem, there wouldn’t have been any major media outlets jumping to say it wasn’t a racist crime, it was an attack on Christianity. I’d like to be sarcastic again here, or make a joke about Faux news, or even snicker at the field day the best political comedians will have with this, but I can’t–because there are too many voting citizens who take this lunacy seriously. So I’ll just make a direct statement. This wasn’t an attack on Christianity. Or the South, or the freedom to fly the confederate flag. This was a racist hate crime.
You know what it isn’t? It isn’t a result of not having “God” in schools. Yes, indeed, I saw that come across my Facebook feed. I strongly believe in, support, and defend freedom of religion; but I believe in the separation of church and state just as strongly.
It isn’t a result of the pastor not having a gun in the church. I am not and don’t pretend to be an expert on religion (of any faith), and I’d be hard pressed to quote directly from the Bible if that quote wasn’t indirect and the subject of an article I was reading in the moment, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t fall under What-Would-Jesus-Do.
It’s the result of hate. Hate, fear, a public education system with more holes than the infinite number of test bubbles that face our children each year, an inability to discriminate between hard facts and opinions/editorials/entertainment, and a sadly lacking understanding of what it means to be a member of a greater community. A society.
This was a nauseating, racist hate crime that has left 9 Black Americans dead, while countless more Americans piss on each other across internet boards everywhere as they scramble to skew this to fit their political agendas; as the black community once again mourns unnecessary losses that should be unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unimaginable. But we don’t have to imagine it, because these losses, these attacks, are all too real and all too frequent. That’s why we have to speak about it.
To the families and members of the Emanuel AME Church, I am so very, very sorry for your loss.