Racism,  Stateside

Observations on Charleston

I was away from home (and a reliable Internet connection) last week, and I want to thank Sarah for posting about the awful massacre at the African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

But I do want to make a few observations of my own. Here is something I posted a couple of days ago in response to some of the comments to Sarah’s post. I stand by it:

You know, if your first reaction to this massacre is not outrage at a vicious racist crime, but rather a need to make a point about black-on-black violence (as if black people don’t care about that), then there’s something fucking wrong with you.

Republicans these days are reluctant to acknowledge that racism exists anywhere except on the Left– a view reinforced by Fox News and pandered to by GOP candidates.

What other possible reason could there be for Jeb Bush to say he didn’t know what motivated Dylann Roof to commit his atrocity?

“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” the former Florida governor said at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference.

Even questioned later, Bush couldn’t bring himself to make a definitive statement.

Asked again whether the shooting was because of race, Bush added, “I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information. It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”

South Carolina’s Republican Governor Nikki Haley said that “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.”

And at Fox News, the reliably moronic Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade (do they keep them around just to make the other Fox commentators look smart by comparison?) suggested the shootings were motivated by anti-Christian bias rather than racial hatred.

Presidential candidate Rick Perry, who has very little margin for error after his disastrous 2012 campaign, goofed again by calling the shootings an “accident” (he probably meant to say “incident”).

Bill Maher, as he often does, got to the heart of the matter:

“[T]he shooter purposely went to a black church, he told the victims he had to do it because they were ‘taking over,’ he wore pro-Apartheid stickers on his jacket, his friends said he was big into segregation, he talked about starting ‘a race war,’ so naturally, when it comes to what motivated him, Republicans are stumped. They are. They cannot figure it out!”

I can’t help noticing how anxious some conservatives are to brand Dylann Roof as mentally ill, when in fact his action was entirely rational according to his beliefs. I noted the same phenomenon when it came to Anders Breivik. According to this way of thinking, when white people on the extremist Right commit atrocities, it can only be due to mental illness; whereas when brown or black Islamic extremists do the same, it is a cold and calculated politically- or religiously-motivated act.

And once again, some people are saying that the only effective way to prevent tragedies like this is to allow more people to carry firearms in more places– although expecting elderly members of a Bible study group to carry and effectively use guns in cases like this seems a rather dubious notion.

Roof’s fondness for the Confederate battle flag stirred Mitt Romney (who is not running for president in 2016 and therefore not worried about alienating South Carolina Republicans) to tweet a forthright call for removal of the flag near the South Carolina state capitol.

Jeb Bush, who will be seeking Republican votes in South Carolina, was unable to be as blunt:

Finally, I noticed that the Confederate flag which until recently flew near where I live in Lexington, Virginia, has been taken down. A small act of decency and respect? We can only hope so.

Update: The Washington Post reports on how the display of the Confederate battle flag has been tying Republicans in knots for the past couple of decades. (All the more ironic because the Republican party was the original anti-Confederate political party.) Good. I hope they thrash it out thoroughly in the coming campaign for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Note especially this remarkable admission:

When Sen. [John] McCain (Ariz.) first ran for president in 2000, he said the flag “was a symbol of racism,” then reversed course, releasing a statement saying he actually thought the flag was “a symbol of heritage.”

“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary,” McCain said back then.

Further update: I wish it hadn’t taken such a terrible tragedy to make it happen, but South Carolina Republicans are lining up behind legislation to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.

Additional update: Seems I was over-optimistic. The local Confederate flag, which was down on Sunday, is back up.

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