Sunday, June 21, 2015

Calling a Spade a Spade

For the last few days, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching about Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black people during a bible study class at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, last week. First, I will not do what I’m still hearing the media do: call Roof a “suspect” or say that he “allegedly” carried out this massacre. There’s no suspicion or anything alleged about it. This sick ticket told friends he was going to do it; wrote a manifesto about it on his website; and confessed to police that he had done it. We know who’s dead, we know who killed them, and we know why.

The other thing I will not do is call this incident an act of terrorism. That word has other connotations and we as a nation have become comfortable with it – albeit in a frightened, unsettling way. This was a plain, old fashioned, act of American racist murder. And the word we no longer want to say is racism.

There are supposedly intelligent people out there who think racism is over because we elected a black president. On the contrary, the deep core of racism that still exists in this country – but which a lot of people had been keeping quieter about with the passage of time and the undeniable strides of the Civil Rights Movement – has been surging upwards because of President Obama’s election. What do you think the Tea Party types mean when they say “We want our country back”? Who do you think they think took it away? How do you think they feel when they see an increasing number of black people in other significant positions of authority in government and in business?

What else explains the fact that quite a few of the 684 Republicans trying to run for president said of Dylann Roof that we’ll never really know why he did what he did. Really? He made his reasons pretty clear. He said black people were “raping our women, and taking over the country. They’ve gotta go.” That clear enough for ya?

I also want to add here something I was saving for after the 2016 election. I do believe that many Republicans and Conservatives in both houses of Congress were genuinely concerned that President Obama would attempt to do all sorts of radically liberal things; after all, he had campaigned so vehemently about “change” and “it’s our time” and all that. But the reality turned out to be that his governance has been remarkably centrist, even right of centrist, in a determined effort to work cooperatively with the opposition.

But no matter what he did or didn’t do to try to reassure them, their response was to not work with him at all! Instead, they gave obstructionism powerful new meaning. They actively disrespected him to a shocking extent. They questioned his citizenship, patriotism, college record, honesty, and said he was not a “legitimate” president. And in so doing, they riled up white supremacists like Dylan Roof and, all puns intended, showed their own true colors.

What’s hurt me most about the behavior of those who call themselves members of The Party of Lincoln, is that it clearly never even occurred to them (1) how much this milestone meant to black Americans and (2) it would have been a real gesture of human kindness and political decency if they really enhanced their efforts to treat him with extra respect and work with him especially cooperatively. They had the power to make sure he didn’t do anything too liberal. So why didn’t they do anything like this? Because it makes them crazy to see a black man in The White House. 

Despite all the racial violence we’ve recently witnessed by white police against black citizens; and despite all of the incredibly racist connections that exist in relation to poverty, hunger, disproportionate incarceration, education, unemployment, income inequality, etc., etc, etc., there has also been heartening progress in other ways. And oddly enough you see it more in the south than you do in the north. A lot of white folks who were raised in a climate of racism have matured out of it. It’s why I chose the photo shown above, of a white man grieving at the gate of the South Carolina church. 

And then there’s this. Many atheists think anyone who is religious takes a moronic, literal, evangelical view. Not true. Most look to their faith for strength, courage, basic values to live by, wisdom, patience, and the capacity to love and forgive, even when such feelings would seem impossible. As a secular Jew and Interfaith Minister of Spiritual Counseling, I admit, to my chagrin, that I haven’t found within myself the capacity to love or forgive Dylann Roof – not yet. But I’m paying attention and trying to grow. And at the very least, speak truth to power and weakness. My own and others. It’s not much, but it’s a start.


matthew i said...

i'm sure you know your liberal beliefs-after all they're yours but don't pretend to ever know mine without me telling you. your assumption of what my tea party beliefs are is so far off the mark it is sickening. yes i do want my country back but not because my current president is black. i couldn't give a shit if he was green. it is because he stinks as a president and has in not only my eyes but a good part of the world, weakened this country and made the world a more dangerous place. he has weakened our military, misjudged the middle east, misjudged chinese expansion, is misjudging the danger of a nuclear iran, ete..etc...etc. i don't care what color you are. eric holder was an incompetant politicl hack. condelizza rice was an exceptional secy of state. both look black to me. as far as obama being a centrist i don't think so. after all he gave us socialist obamacare.
now for the most racist of your comments. we should treat obama with extra respect and cooperation because he is BLACK? since when do you take a persons race into consideration in politics. the office of the president is or should be color blind. it doesn't drive me crazy becase of his color. it drives me crazy because of his actions.

MizB said...

Matthew, as you well know, my blog post was not directed at you personally. But for the record, while I have never thought of you as a racist, and you may have political/economic sentiments that are in accord with the Tea Party, I'm surprised that you haven't noticed a considerable racist element in the Tea Party and among Conservatives in general. You and I will never agree about politics or, apparently, about the role of racism in this country (did you think it had gone away?). I take you at your word about what does and doesn't bother you about Obama and his administration, but American politics are not and never have been color blind. Virtually nothing in this country is color blind, and people of assorted colors (other than white) are undeniably disproportionately discriminated against and at a disadvantage in every key area of life. Sorry you got so hot and bothered, but I'm a liberal and I write a liberal blog. But I understand how you feel -- it's the same way I feel when I read Conservative commentary. We apparently live in alternate universes.

matthew i said...

there isn't a racist element in the democratic party? who put up the stars and bars in the first place. not a conservative or tea party gov. what flag was on bill clintons campaign buttons? of course there is racism in the USA. there is racism in every country in the world along with homophobia and every other difference there is between people and whats worse, there will ALWAYS be. nothing is color blind but that doesn't give anyone the right to discriminate because of it. white people are not immune to it either. ask the white germans, irish, russians, jews, italians etc. we all got our portion too. you're right, though we don't live in alternate universes, our views differ and thats perfectly allright. the world would be so mundane and boring if we all thought in lockstep. i enjoy reading your opinion on issues. it makes me think about mine and evaluate them more critically. i'm glad you do likewise. m