The massacre of 9 people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina has incited debate and frustration, but already it feels as if the entire episode will not resolve anything really at all. There have been calls for increase gun control laws, but I think that to see it through the lens of merely gun violence is to not even begin to approach what the tragedy is a manifestation of. Don’t get me wrong, I am in support of increased gun control laws. But you don’t need a mass murder to call for instituting increased gun control laws. There are 297 reasons every day to call for gun control laws, at least according to the Brady Campaign study between 2009 and 2013. But yet, it’s not discussed in the news or by politicians everyday. Why not? Probably because it’s become too common an occurrence. Probably because the majority, 54%, of the victims of gun violence are black, a rate that far outpaces the actual percentage of the population. While it’s not broken out by class, the majority are probably in poorer neighborhoods – ones that have been forgotten by the establishment.
What happened in Charleston was more than an episode of gun violence, it was an act of racism, and beyond even that, it was an act of terrorism. It has been pointed out already by Jelani Cobb in his piece for The New Yorker, or John Stewart on The Daily Show, but so few people in the political establishment have said anything of the sort. And why would they? It’s easy to look at what happened as just an episode of random violence. But, it wasn’t. There was political motive behind it. Other acts of terrorism have been condemned, and anyone associated with the group that commits it is accused of being complicit if they do not immediately speak out and condemn it. Moderate muslims are constantly associated with acts of radical islam groups. How many times have we heard that they need to speak out against it or they are just as responsible. That they need to take the responsibility upon themselves to stand up and fight against their most radical elements. Well, here is an act of terrorism and I have yet to hear any politician really speak out against white people, white extremists, denouncing themselves. On the PBS News Hour on June 19th, Republican presidential nominee and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham simply called him a crazy person, and that that “there is no way to explain what would explain a person to do this”.
(also on PBS NewsHour site) Already, those in power are starting to immediate distance themselves from what had happened. No one would talk like this if this was an Islamist radical. And that is is what you call privilege. Being the race in power affords you the ability and the power to control the narrative of any story. History is written by those in power, and this is yet another example of it. There are no calls for moderate whites to take responsibility, for any fundamental reexamination of why the social fabric is the way it is. I’m still waiting for calls to drone strike white extremists in South Carolina starting at the State Capital. That’s been the standard procedure against muslims.
The fact that anyone would even say that there is no way to explain this boggles the mind. The racism is to established that the Confederate flag still flies on the state capital grounds. In fact, while the state and national flags fly at half mast to mourn those killed, the Confederate flag flies at full mast. The symbolism of that speaks volumes. I understand that people are calling for the Confederate flag to be removed. But what is that, it’s some visible token to give the impression that something is being done. The flag will be removed, politicians will call it a victory against hate, everyone will pat each other on the back and call it a day. Why would we need to address any sort of institutionalized racism – we’re removed the flag from the grounds of the state capital, what else is there to do. Fix one superficial thing and deflect anything that needs to be done on a more fundamental level beyond that. Again privilege, narrative, and everything else that comes with power.