Thursday, June 18, 2015

0 What Charleston Means

Photograph by Lissa D'Aquisto, courtesy of City of Charleston

(The Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC)

By now, many of us have heard of the horrendous acts which occurred in Charleston, SC in which a gunman opened fire in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing 9 people.

Media outlets and pundits have already described this incident as “incomprehensible” and “unbelievable”.

I would’ve agreed with them… that’s if I hadn’t already known what country I was living in.

One survivor of the incident recalled the gunman, a white male saying to the members of the congregation, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country — and you have to go.”

Where does rhetoric like that come from?

I'll tell you: It comes from our schools, it comes from our media, and our politicians. It comes from family members and it comes from our history. This type of deep-rooted hatred doesn’t come out of nowhere. 

This was not an isolated incident.

But we live in a world where we seek the easy way out, where there’s no time for the discussions which force us to look at ourselves as a society in a critical light.

In the days to come, the media will seek to humanize the gunman, and almost instinctively, people will seek to paint him in a sympathetic light with comments such as, “he’s still a human being” or “he was a good kid who a bad decision”.

We’ll see the same empty, surface-level talk about gun control, mental health and how we all “need to pray together”.

People will shout, “Let’s let all of the facts come out” and “It’s not about race!” And ultimately, the conversation will go back to the victim-blaming, diversionary rhetoric of “Where’s the outrage about Black-on-Black crime?”

However while when unarmed black men are victims of state-sanctioned violence, the conversation changes, it becomes more interrogative, you’ll hear, “Well, he wasn’t an angel” or more commonly, "He was a thug!"

This is a society in which a 21-year-old white male can kill 9 people and be captured alive, but a 43-year old black man accused of selling cigarettes can get choked to death.

This is a society in which people are vocal to criticize protests and riots based on racial violence, but are quiet about racism itself.

We live in a society in which you are more demonized for talking about racism, than you are for practicing it.

This is a part of the problem.

A culture of racism creates racial terrorism… And until we can be honest with ourselves about that, we’re just talking in circles.


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