vendredi, juin 19, 2015

The Charleston Massacre, white folk, and the mirror

Why are these white people using my black brothers for target practice?

That was one of the first thoughts I had when I had about the Charleston massacre of nine men and women at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
I can't wrap my mind around this. I don't understand. I refuse to understand, were thoughts that followed in quick succession. 
But I'm wrong.  Because if white folks like me don't try to grasp the depth o of the hatred some of those who share our pigmentation have for once enslaved and still persecuted citizens, we are part of the problem.

The church where this apparently deranged and certainly hateful and vicious young man allegedly took the lives of a librarian, a retired clergyman, a barber, the charismatic state senator/pastor who led it and others has a long and storied history of resistance to white oppression.

We'd like to believe that we are past that long and bloody chapter of our national history. But current events give that happy delusion the lie.

The reality of what we are up against as a nation is  grim and insidious - the rising and bloody tide of assaults mute testament to the fact that  we can't keep ducking the darkness anymore.

So many deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police or self-styled " neighborhood watchdogs".  So much hatred, amplified by social media.

On the flip side, access to platforms like Twitter has also boosted the increasing calls for accountability, including the way we choose to speak of violence against African-Americans.

As commentators like University of Pennsylvania  professor Anthea Butler have pointed out, we are quick to label white shooters as "loners" or "mentally ill" instead of the terrorists they are - terrorism that has long been part of the American narrative.

Or maybe we can. 

Move on. After all, we have before. 

Candidly, the fact that we are confronted with one tragedy after another on social media amplifies the temptation to become virtual voyeurs and leave it at that.

Less than a day and a half after the blood of innocent victims pooled on the floor of a house of worship, there are already calls for healing.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's got the answer - seek the death penalty for alleged shooter Dylann Storm Roof. Because more killing is always the answer, isn't it, Governor?

Others are quick to tag institutional racism as the sole issue, or to claim that we need more guns in places like churches (another way of blaming the victims, people who met Wednesday night to put into practice the teachings of the Lord they followed).

An act of terrorism can be an act of racism can be an act of gun violence. 

All of these behaviors can coexist in one person.  

We all have our crusades - and often, they are sophisticated ways of walling ourselves off from one another - another way of creating a narrative of dominance.

When we do that, nothing changes.

Perhaps now is the time to listen.  Listen to the voices of those who have been terrorized by the seemingly endless cycle of violence embedded in American culture.  Listen to the grief and feel the pain and face the righteous anger of our black brothers and sisters.

As someone whose ancestors suffered at the hands of racist killers who tagged  them with universal guilt, I'm wary of blaming "all whites" for the sins of some. 

But as distasteful as it is, Caucasian men and women like me might want to take a good look at the alleged killer.  We may not want to recognize him (overwhelmingly "hims") in our national story - or ancestry.

But our black friends and neighbors are familiar with him. And unless we speak out, unless we act, unless we start to pay attention, who would blame them for believing that his face looks remarkably like ours?

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