The massacre at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina reminds us all that racism is deeply ingrained in the history of the USA
The recent killings of nine congregants at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, once more typifies a well-known fact: “mass shootings have become a banal fact of death in America.”
A young 21- year-old white man who allegedly declared shot nine Black worshippers to death during a community prayer service: “You rape our women and take away our jobs.”
For many Black people it is blatantly apparent that the killer’s actions were an act of terror, which makes him a terror suspect and not a shooting suspect.
Sadly, so far, most media outlets have been labeling him a shooting suspect. This refusal by mainstream America to use the language that is typically assigned to terrorist attacks further calls into question how terrorism and race are dealt with in America by authorities.
Consciously or unconsciously, the attempt to limit what has happened to one “unhinged” individual, when in a Black church with a storied past nine Black bodies have been laid low, only plays into the hands of the shooter; this, in my opinion, is problematic.
In addition, note how the media have already found ways to legitimize his alleged crimes, a courtesy which, unfortunately, is never extended to suspects of color. Strangely enough, when I heard that the suspect was white, I already had an excuse for his behaviour, in fact a plethora of excuses, drawn up for him. Mental illness will be the go-to explanation, and here he will be humanized and called sick.
He being a victim of parental disaffection, mistreatment, early parental separation, product of a broken home will follow this and last but not least he slipped through the cracks and was the victim of inadequate mental health resources.
At this juncture I lay no claim to being a savant. On ABC and Fox News during discussion of his motivations for committing such an act, the anchor carefully and clearly said, “We do not know his mental condition.”
Sad but true that is the power of whiteness in current day America.
While being of a sound mind in a sound body, after the Boston Marathon bombings I watched and listened to several American television and radio stations as they brought in expert after expert, and even a convert, to qualify what had taken place as terrorism. There was absolutely no discussion of whether the Tsarnaev brothers could have experienced psychological difficulties.
Such behavior and attitude leaves open the question of whether or not there’s a disconnect between how Black and white people view violence against Black bodies. Note the grand difference – white suspects are seen as lone wolves; the act by Charleston shooter Dylan Roof was emphasized in the media as the act of one hateful person. Violence for example by Black and Muslim people is systemic and warrants response and action from all who are of the same race and religion.
Although the subject of a police manhunt, Roof was brought in alive, others such as ex LAPD agent Christopher Dorner was not as lucky when he was being hunted by the FBI. It should also be pointed out that even Black victims are vilified and every part of their lives is fine-tooth combed for any infraction or the slightest hint of justification for the attacks and murders that may have brought about their demise.
On this point I recall contacting CNN Anderson Cooper (360 Degrees) during the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman saga, requesting that he take a balanced view on profile reporting of the two individuals involved. In less than 24 hours, following the tragic altercation, the public had been treated to the private, public and even school life of the victim. The disparity was so obvious.
All that was known of the killer, Zimmerman, were the facts that he was an aspiring law officer and a neighbourhood watch volunteer licensed to carry a gun. None of his past brushes with the law were made known by media outlets, or the fact that his father was a retired magistrate/judge. Trayvon’s parents were separated; he lived with his mother, father lived in a gated community elsewhere, had been suspended from school, illicit drug possession, etc., etc. What a disparity! And here’s another harsh reality, nearly 80% of newsrooms in America (and Canada) are staffed by white reporters.
We still live in a very segregated society, and in addition we do not interact on deep enough levels to see the humanity in each other. Some newsroom personnel may simply feel uncomfortable labeling people who look like them terrorists. However, when it comes to attaching those labels to nonwhite people, then it’s the norm. There is no surprise, then, that this Black person or this Arab person is like this because that’s what they are, so it is only natural for us to assign those labels to them. It is apparent that when white people commit mass shootings their ideology isn’t brought as often to the fore.
The Klan Control Act or the Enforcement Act of 1871 was the first anti-terrorism law in U. S history, after the federal Government under the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant decided it needed to step in to protect order in the South and keep the political system from being overwhelmed by terrorist intimidation, and stamp out acts of violence against Black people.
The Charleston shootings clearly fit the definition of terror. I guess that was then, this is now, where a spade is strangely and automatically being called a horticultural implement and not a spade.
In the 21st century terrorism is typically associated with Muslim extremism. The Charleston killings have brought in its wake the call for renewed discussion about definition of terrorism. Is the term terrorist colored by the act or the fact?
Dylan Roof committed a hateful act of domestic terrorism in a church filled with Black people. That’s plainly and simply put, and there should be no other spin on it. As those who have lost their lives are eventually laid to rest, victims of yet another senseless killing.
I wish that media coverage from here on would not fall back on the typical narrative that is so readily attributed to white male shooters: a lone mentally disturbed young man failed by society.
It is the manifestation of the racial hatred and the white supremacy so prevalent in American society, and we should be calling him what he is: a terrorist.
Racism is not dead. We all know it’s alive because it keeps victimizing Black people.
With each well-publicized account of racial violence, all claims that the arrival and imminent departure of a Black president heralded the arrival of a “post-racial era” have collapsed under the very weight of its own delusion.
Since 9/11, America has become fixated on the threat of Jihadi terrorism, but the horrific tragedy at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina reminds us all that the threat of homegrown domestic terrorism is very real.
Racism is deeply ingrained in the history of America, the success of Anglo-American capitalism owes itself to slavery and the prosperity of America itself rests on the sectoral oppression of Black labor. Sadly, it does not look as if Dyllan Roof will be charged with terrorism, but we must insist that this was an act of terrorism, part of an ongoing pattern.
Aleuta — The struggle continues.