I had almost completed a humorous post for this blog about Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency and had planned to post that today. However, I am afraid that I don’t feel very humorous today in light of yesterday’s tragedy at the historic African-American AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, and I think it would be inappropriate and nearly a sacrilege to mock and make jokes today. Instead, I want (need?) to voice my opinion about yesterday’s horrific tragedy.
I watched Jon Stewart’s monologue about the tragedy and several things he said really resonated with me, but one in particular took my breath away with the truths he told. He said “… I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s—. Yeah. That’s us.” And he is so right. This could segue into a commentary on gun control vs gun rights, but that is a topic for another day. This post is simply about what happened in Charleston and what it says, not only about the southern states, but about the nation as a whole.
To any who cared to listen, I have been saying for about the past year that our society is going backward toward a return to the racism and bigotry of the 50’s and 60’s. Many have pooh-poohed this notion and told me I was making a federal case out of a few minor incidents, a mountain out of the proverbial molehill. Still think so? Who among you remember the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15th, 1963? I remember it well. Four young girls were killed, and many others injured in what would today be called a “terrorist attack”. Are there parallels to the 1963 bombing and yesterday’s shooting? Sure there are. Both are a result of the murderous actions by those who think of themselves as “white supremacists”, who think themselves better than others simply because of the colour of their skin! Make no mistake: this was a racially-motivated hate crime. This, my friends, was racism rearing its ugly, ugly head again nearly 52 years after the Birmingham church bombing, nearly 51 years after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
Twice in the past 24 hours, somebody has accused me of “playing the race card”. WHAT???? When a young man, a child really, goes into a church stating he’s there to kill black people because, in his words, they “… are taking over our country.” He claimed that he was “on a mission”, a “mission” that he almost called off because the people in the church were “… so nice to me.” So how in hell am I playing the “race card” when I state that this was a racially-motivated hate crime? And why do I keep reading that he was a “smart kid”, a “normal kid”, and a “typical American kid” who was simply “mentally ill”? No, this was an evil, malignant individual who had been planning this act, according to a former roommate, for some six months and intended to “start a civil war” and then kill himself. Make no mistake, mental illness or not, this was a deranged and evil individual. He has confessed with no sign of remorse. I do not ordinarily support the death penalty, however in this case, I will make an exception. Or perhaps I would prefer that this “all-American, smart kid” be tossed into prison with a bunch of rapists and murderers and left to rot for the next 70 years or so.
Where did this boy get these ideas? Well, he was raised in one of the most racist states in the union, South Carolina, where the confederate flag is still revered and the streets are named after confederate generals from the Civil War. But I think we must look closer, to the parents. Parents are the ones who teach children their values, or lack of. Nine times out of ten, a young person will tend to follow the same political views are his/her parents, believe in the same social norms, ascribe to the same religious beliefs. Racism is more open and more prevalent in the southern states, but make no mistake, it exists in every single state in this nation and until we unite to confront racists, to shun them, we will not conquer this national cancer.
What have we learned in the last 50 years? 100 years? Apparently nothing. Today we are experiencing a return to an era where white supremacists walk freely among us, where the KKK is making a concerted effort to increase its membership, where racial profiling is the norm in police departments in every state, and where those of us who protest police killing unarmed young black men willy-nilly are called “agitators”. I am only one voice and my voice is not heard by many, but believe this: I will make sure that my voice is used to fight racism and every other form of bigotry in this nation for as long as I live.