Friday, June 19, 2015

Commentary on Shootings at Mother Emanuel: Why Dylann Roof Is America — As Apple Pie

I'm not sure, honestly, to whom we should listen after the Charleston shootings. What I mean to say is, I'm not sure talking about these issues has gotten us very far, as a society, in the past. As President Obama said a year ago in the clip included in Rachel Maddow's show last night (it's the clip at the head of the posting), 

We're the only developed country on earth where this happens, and it happens now once a week, and it's a one-day story. . . . The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn't do anything about it was stunning to me.

As Jon Stewart said on his show last night, we'll talk about the Charleston shootings for a few days — and then we won't do jack shit (I'm quoting his phrase) about any of this. Because that's the American way.

As Presbyterian minister Rev. Denise Anderson says to allies of the African-American community now, 

At this point, I'm not interested in your listening. I think the danger in this listening posture is, while it seems like the mindful and conscientious thing to do, it can also be far too convenient. It's a great way of doing nothing. For the sake of finding the right action, you take no action instead. 

Or as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said to us years ago, we keep talking about and analyzing problems that demand instead the fierce urgency of now. As he stated, we talk but do not do because the paralysis of analysis allows us to exonerate ourselves from responsibility to do something.

I offer you the following links about the Charleston events in the full knowledge that what we need now are not more words, but actions on behalf of justice and healing that address the deep, seemingly intractable racism of American society which has come out of the woodwork all over again with the election of an African-American president:

1. A key part of this story we overlook at great risk to our nation: the sordid history of attacks on and in black churches in the U.S., for years now. Adelle Banks gathers a set of historical notes about this for us at Religion News Service today. And as Fred Clark writes at Slacktivist

But the burning of black churches has never stopped. The National Church Arson Task Force in 1998 investigated "670 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings between January 1, 1995, and September 8, 1998″ targeting black churches throughout the United States. The most recent such statistic I can find is from 2002, when 240 such church arsons occured in the U.S. This is not ancient history. It hasn’t stopped. 
It never stops. Black churches, black people, have perpetually been targeted by violence in this country — by premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets and intended to influence an audience.

This is what terrorism is. This is the very essence of terrorism — to take a minority group susceptible to violence, who feel demeaned and even hunted in mainstream society and who then create a place of refuge in which they hope to find safety, and to show them that there is no such place for them anywhere. As an eyewitness of the shootings in Charleston quoted in The Guardian tells us today, as Dylann Storm Roof executed one person after another at Mother Emanuel, he calmly reloaded his gun five times, talking to his victims all the while, informing them that he had to do what he was doing because they needed to go.

2. What Dylann Storm Roof did in Charleston two nights ago was an act of terrorism, and as Ana Marie Cox rightly notes, by seeking to twist that fact into a tortured, incredible narrative of persecution of Christians in America and by refusing to address the racism at the heart of this act of terrorism, American conservatives (read: the entire GOP and all who vote Republican) are cheapening the martyrdom of those he murdered at Mother Emanuel:

By calling Roof’s actions an "attack on faith," conservatives are recoiling from the evidence before them. To say Roof was anti-religious is like Thomas voicing doubt even as his hand comes away covered in blood. That argument is worse than a lie, it is an insult to Pinckney, to the work he did to heal the nation’s wounds. 
That argument is itself an attack on faith—the faith Pinckney had in us.

3. As Anthea Butler points out, the glaring inconsistencies in the way conservatives and the mainstream media treat terrorist acts when they are perpetrated by white males and by everyone else puts the lie to the claim that white males — who are far and away more likely to commit these atrocities than any other group in society — cannot possibly be terrorists. Shooters of color are terrorists and thugs, while white shooters are mentally ill . . . .

And this is how Dylann Storm Roof was arrested after he shot a slew of folks dead in a church, and this is how Eric Garner was arrested when he sold cigarettes on the street:

Or, as South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham puts the point, when a Dzhokhar Tsarnaev goes on a murderous rampage, we should do everything possible to look at his terrorist ties. But when it's a Dylann Storm Roof doing the shooting (Roof   went to school with Graham's niece, by the way): just another whacked-out kid. Nothing to see here. Move on.

News flash to Senator Graham: according to CNN this morning, Roof has confessed to his murders and has "told investigators that he wanted to start a race war." If that's not proof of his racist, terrorist motive in shooting members of Mother Emanuel in the church sanctuary, then I have to ask, What further proof are we waiting for?

And when will the mendacious diversionary narrative about "attacks on religion" stop?

4. If we ever choose to stop lying to ourselves and the world, the truth we Americans need to face, according to Kali Holloway — Dylann Roof is America:

We are guns and violence and race hatred and systemic, codified, state-sanctioned terrorism against people of color and that is who we have always been. While our media is certain to attribute Roof’s heinous acts to mental illness (and the cops were careful to take him alive, which even the most innocent of black folks cannot count on), I consider him a particularly apt pupil. Just the latest of many. Though certainly not the last.

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice. 
Take down the [stars and bars Confederate battle] flag [flying over the South Carolina statehouse]. Take it down now.

Apple pie. As American as. That's what all of this is, this nightmare of racist, violent history from which the American people refuse to awaken, and what it will remain until we stop the lying and the slumbering.

(Chris and other overseas readers: I apologize if the MSNBC video doesn't work for you. In such case, please feel free to post alternative links to the video, if you know of them.)

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