What a perfect metaphor for the dogged persistence of racism in this country.
President Obama noted that "the fact that this took place in a black church obviously ... raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked ...."
Indeed, as Charles Pierce reminds us, "this was the church founded by Denmark Vesey, who planned a slave revolt in 1822. Vesey was convicted in a secret trial in which many of the witnesses testified after being tortured. After they hung him, a mob burned down the church he built. His sons rebuilt it."
But this isn't just about our history. It is very much about our present. As Kali Holloway says, to pretend to be surprised by this latest horrific crime is to be complicit:
Who, at this point, can feign surprise at this latest massacre when it sits at the nexus of so much that is familiar and perfectly in line with the U.S. that we know? We are a country where mass shootings are weekly news, where gun violence is a fact of daily life, where there is a legacy of terror against black people and communities, where white racists have long targeted black churches, where African-American life is so devalued it can be taken with impunityJesse Jackson is right: "This young white man, whoever he is, did not originate terrorism. He is merely reflecting decades and centuries of institutional and active political terrorism."
The shooting in Charleston is the result and the product of a protracted political genocide resulting from institutionalized racism, centuries of dehumanization and the current denial of economic and political equality of opportunity. Today everyone is outraged at the killings, but there is not the same outrage that African Americans are number one in infant mortality, in life expectancy, in unemployment, in cheap wages, in access to capital and denial of bank loans, in imprisonment, in segregated housing and home foreclosures, in segregated and underfunded public schools, in poverty, in heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS and the lack of access to health care and more. We ignore this institutionalized state of terror and the resulting racial fears at our peril.As Charles Pierce says, we must "think about what happened. Think about why it happened. Talk about what happened. Talk about why it happened. Do these things, over and over again. The country must resist the temptation present in anesthetic innocence. It must reject the false comfort of learned disbelief and the narcotic embrace of concocted surprise."
We need to take serious steps to end gun violence by electing politicians who will enact meaningful gun control laws
We need to tear down state-sanctioned Confederate flags and other symbols celebrating our racist heritage. (Sign the petition here)
"Racism deserves a remedy," Jesse Jackson states, proposing "a White House Conference on racial justice and urban policy to make sure no one else is being hurt because of economic, political and leadership indifference or lack of vision of what needs to be done!"
Can anyone imagine any of the Republican candidates for president convening such a conference or meaningfully addressing the issues of race? Just listen to what they have to say about this latest attack on "religious liberty." To them, it has nothing to do with race. For them, it is never about race. For them, it can't be about race because to acknowledge the existence of institutional racism (like acknowledging the existence of man-made climate change) would mean having to do something about it.
In any event, Isaiah J. Poole, Jr., notes, "this incident should call America to the realization that it needs something deeper than yet another White House conference can provide – a recognition of the continuing infection of racism in the nation’s bloodstream – an infection unfazed by our denials of its existence or our protestations that it’s not our problem – and the determination to do whatever it takes to root out that infection and heal its effects once and for all."
As Charles Pierce concludes:
There is a timidity that the country can no longer afford ... This was not an unthinkable act ... If people do not want to speak of it, or think about it, it's because they do not want to follow the story where it inevitably leads. It's because they do not want to follow this crime all the way back to the mother of all American crimes, the one that Denmark Vesey gave his life to avenge. What happened on Wednesday night was a lot of things. A massacre was only one of them.