Readings and Insights on Charleston

This Fathers Day, while I am musing how grateful I am for the long and loving relationship I have had with my Dad, my heart aches for the lives lost in a hailstorm of hatred and bullets in Charleston last week. The world has lost nine beautiful souls because a young, misguided man decided that it would be a good idea to use the firearm that he received for his birthday from his father. I can’t help but wonder at the kind of father who raised this child to be a man who would do such a thing, and I despair that we can change the world when gun violence persists.

I have been obsessing about the massacre and the world’s reaction to it, struggling to find my way through the chaos of fact and opinion to understand what happened and why. Here is a collection of some of the better responses I have encountered since the terrible incident:

A Hate Crime in Charleston – From On the Media. A brilliant piece that names each victim and delves into the media’s coverage of the story and the constant denial of what is undeniable, that racism and the easy access to guns is what enabled that awful moment. I loved this reference to the Ralph Waldo Ellison novel Juneteenth:

“Nothing ever stops, it divides and multiplies, and I guess sometimes it gets ground down superfine, but it doesn’t just blow away.”

The piece concludes that we must continue to grind it down and maybe someday it will blow away.

Only white people can save themselves from racism and white supremacism – Written by a native of South Carolina, calling for individual people, specifically white people, to take responsibility to confront their own prejudices. In the wake of this shocking horror, too many white people in positions of leadership and influence are denying that the problem is racism. This is the superfine dust that won’t blow away. The racism is there, but it’s ground down so fine that it’s invisible to those who are not victims of its ugliness and destructiveness.

It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males – I suppose one could make the argument that racism is a form of mental illness. But making the claim of mental illness relieves people of any responsibility for their actions. It is beyond frustrating to hear the continued denials of racism in the face of difference between how black and white suspects of violent crimes are treated, even in the face of a crime that was committed by a self-declared racist. In the dominant paradigm, black criminals are thugs who deserve to be physically abused, and white criminals are mentally ill who get bullet-proof vests and taken to Burger King. This issue runs deep, and it is WAY beyond my expertise. But there is a lot to say here about the prison industrial complex and how black men are over-represented in the prison population. Angela Davis has been teaching the world about it for decades.

Further, my friend Carrie shared some righteous anger and brilliant insight on Facebook about the excuse of mental illness in this and like contexts,

“We’re assuming that mental illness equals violence–and this is simply not true. Guess who’s mentally ill? Like, everybody. People in your family, people in your classrooms, your workplaces, everywhere you hang out. If they haven’t told you yet, it’s because you’re a dick about mental illness and they’re embarrassed to talk to you. Seriously. And how many of these people, say, open fire on schools and churches? About .0000000000000000000001% of them. The rates of violence are NO HIGHER among the mentally ill than they are in the general populous–unless you count certain antisocial personality disorders, which the f^#%!&*@ judicial system does not. You know why? Because people with antisocial personality disorders know what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care. Despite what Law and Order may tell you, the insanity plea is rarely used and even more rarely won– because you need to prove that you are so mentally ill you are living in another reality and have no idea that what you were doing was wrong– not a faulty moral compass, not “I’m so racist it’s crazy” but literally hearing voices and hallucinating and stuff. Mental illness is an extremely rare cause of violence, while racism, which is what this is, is a painfully common one.”

An NRA board member blamed the pastor killed in Charleston for the deaths of his members – Really? REALLY!?! By this logic, it will be my fault if I get shot because I choose not to pack heat. That is not acceptable, and I don’t want to live in a world where people only feel safe if they carry a gun.

Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now – It has no place on government property. The Confederate flag is universally read as an endorsement for white supremacy, and flying it on government property sends the message of state-sanctioned racism. Period. Say what you will about Southern heritage, the cultural and historical meaning is undeniable. And yet people do.

White Supremacist Linked to Charleston Suspect Donated to 2016 G.O.P. Campaigns – Isn’t it interesting that a white supremacist thinks that these politicians represent his views? They are the same ones denying racism and supporting gun rights over civil rights.

Terrorist targeted historic SC church on 193rd anniversary of thwarted slave revolt planned by its founder – The date and location of the attack was no coincidence. It was a premeditated murder spree on a significant anniversary for this storied institution that has represented the struggle for freedom and civil rights for black Americans for generations. We all need to be responsible to know our history.

Jon Stewart expounding on the “Gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.” What will we do without him when he goes? Who is going to hold up the mirror and help us to laugh at ourselves…or cry, as in this case?

“In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named after Confederate generals who fought to keep black people from being able to drive on that road. That’s insanity. That’s racial wallpaper. You can’t allow that.  The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guys are the ones who feel the country is being taken away from them.”

I forgive you. Hate won’t win: This video brought me to my knees. The family members of many of the victims offering, through their tears, their blessings forgiveness to the killer. This. THIS is how the world will change.

Those of us who are moved by this tragedy should be inspired to make something good will come from this senseless, hateful act, something that will honor the lives of these nine precious souls that we lost, and honor those of us who continue to walk this earth and are responsible to make it a better place.

Someday We’ll All Be Free: 100 Hours Of Soulful Protest Music – The massacre illustrates why this music continues to be relevant.

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