I’m going to acknowledge that I write this collection of words sitting in a place of white privilege. It’s not said often enough, and unfortunately when it is, it’s usually in the wake of tragedies like the terrorist attack in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday evening. Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge, because when I still went to church, I never had to worry that a human being with subhuman thoughts and motivations would walk into choir practice on Wednesday night and gun us down. That’s largely because everyone I went to church with looked like I do.
So, let’s stow the rhetoric about the Charleston church shootings being an “attack on faith.” This was a mass lynching and anyone who tries to cast it as persecution against Christians should just check themselves out of the conversation right now.
They won’t, of course, but I’m not going to let that stop me from lecturing to them.
I have hated the continued slaughter of Americans by Americans, even more than I have hated the murder of Americans by foreign nationals. We have a horribly paradoxical attitude, though, about the former and the latter. Foreign terrorists fly planes into our buildings, and we are ready to rain down thunder upon them and do everything we can to remove their ability to do it again. American terrorists gun down innocents in schools, churches, theaters, places of business and we call it an isolated tragedy and do very little to impede similar groups from repeating the carnage. We hold up the Second Amendment as our excuse, and we bastardize and corrupt the words “freedom” and “liberty.”
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result every time, then America has first-class tickets and is living it up in the bar car on the crazy train. Let’s put to bed the myth that we are the “greatest country in the world,” because this is not the behavior of a great civilization. Greatness does not respect the beliefs espoused by that racist slime, that feckless thug. Greatness may tolerate it in our midst, but not without saying “you’re wrong, and we are not going to allow you to fester and hamper our progress.”
We aren’t the greatest country in the world, but we can become better than we are.
In my short life, I’ve been around for too many of these, but I’ve always been insulated from them because of distance, either geographical or relational. I never knew anyone personally involved. That changed on Thursday morning, when I read a post from a friend, a former classmate at Morehead. She teaches in Charleston and was coworkers and friends with one of the shooting victims, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, who was a speech therapist and track coach, and who was also a pastor in the church. I’m trying not to make this about me, but I can’t imagine I’m the only person in America for whom the degrees of separation from these massacres of Americans by Americans are getting fewer and fewer as time marches on. Yesterday it was a friend of a friend. I’ll admit, I grieve when these things happen, but there’s always an arrogance about it because I somehow feel that it will never happen to me or to someone I know. And no one ever does.
Well, that’s not true. African-Americans do. There have been enough church burnings, lynchings, and other atrocities committed against African-Americans throughout American history to justify the fear they might have. As I said, though, at the beginning, I do not know that kind of fear because I sit in a place of white privilege. Sure, if I was fighting for my country, I could sit in a bunker and be afraid, but at least I know that the fellows on the other side are trying to kill me. But because I’m white, I can come home from that war, move into a home and be completely ignorant that my neighbor is a white supremacist with a Klan hood hanging in his closet. We’re not going to bother each other because I’m ignorant of his views and he’s ignorant of my views. I don’t know that I’m living next to a terrorist.
I can’t imagine that a black family who moves into a predominantly white neighborhood can feel that kind of security. I may wonder if any of my neighbors are domestic terrorists, but it doesn’t directly affect me. I can’t fathom that level of fear.
Yet there are people, high-level people, who seem to thrive in ignorance in the wake of these domestic terror attacks. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – you know…the one who won’t retire the state’s treasonous flag – wrote on her Facebook page that “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
We’ll never understand? Gov. Haley, this is not one of life’s great mysteries. A guy wearing the flag of pre-South African Apartheid went into a church with a gun and slaughtered human beings whose skin color was different than his own. He is reported by the only living witness to have said “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you’ll have to go.” He confessed to authorities that he executed this terrorist attack in order to start a race war.
This one is open and shut, governor. Lieutenant Columbo has left the building.
Presidential candidate, former Florida governor and brother of a famous idiot Jeb Bush said on Friday “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes.”
Either he is genuinely as stupid as his brother, or someone on his campaign staff (the guy who buys cigarettes for Satan) advised him to be purposely nebulous (ignorant) for fear of losing the slackjaw neanderthal vote.
Rick Santorum (is he still relevant?), to his credit, called it what it was – a hate crime. Unfortunately, he missed the mark when identifying the group that was being targeted, taking his cue from Fox News. On Thursday he told radio host Joe Piscopo “We don’t know the rationale, but what other rationale could there be? You’re sort of lost that someone would walk into a Bible study at a church and indiscriminately kill people.”
What other rationale?
To this trio, and others like them who are dancing around the elephant in the room, I ask this: Are you intentionally ignorant, or can you really not make the connection between a white supremacist domestic terrorist and his intent to gun down members of a black church? Are you aware that people listen to the words coming out of those holes in your heads? How many other terrorist attacks like this must we endure before you have the grand epiphany, before you grow up, before we can finally have an honest discussion about racism in America.
We aren’t the greatest country in the world. Wednesday night proved that. We can become better than we are, though. As soon as our leaders can do as the struggling alcoholic does and admit we have a problem, then we can truly progress.