It is a remarkably amazing thing about our internet age that within minutes of something happening, people are commenting on the event, commenting on those comments, and commenting on the comments of the comments. It is exactly what some in our world would hope to prevent–substantive talk about important (and sometimes non-important–issues of society. So the fact that it happens, and happens with great fervor and passion is wonderful. The fact that it shows some people’s true colors or misinformation to the world is also oddly wonderful.
Sadly, many of these events are not wonderful. In fact, as was the case with Thursday evening’s killings in a church–A Church!!!–in Charleston, South Carolina, the event illustrated the absolute worst in humanity, proving only that the truly depraved are capable of such monstrosities.
But part of the commenting process these days is the taking of sides: staking out the moral high-ground, or telling the world that one side or the other is totally wrong for making the statements they have because those beliefs are fundamentally incorrect. And the problem with much of this is that the comments–the opinion–expressed are totally unsupported by fact. They are supported only by assumptions that the reader agrees with the general viewpoint the writer holds on the issue.
Which generally is fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And in many areas, there is no black or white to an issue: merely shades of grey, because society is itself a complicated mass. But in this case, there is a right and wrong. There is no grey when it comes to the discussion of racism that this event touched off.
Let me state here that I am white. I was born in Iowa, and have spent nearly my entire life in Minnesota. I’ve had many friends who were non-white. I like to think that I would not knowingly do anything to prevent any members of any race other than mine from having the same rights and freedoms that I so easily take for granted on a daily basis. And yet, I know that stereotypes are there, lurking within my soul. I know that fears and doubts are also there, which, kept if unchecked, would make me look upon myself with contempt. Because I want a society that is equal and just and fair to everyone. Not just to those who look a certain way, celebrate a particular God, speak a different language, or have come from a different country or background.
I stumbled into an opinion piece on the Powerline Blog–a conservative blog–which takes to task an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. I encourage you to read both when you have the time. The WaPo op-ed is frankly emotional and really gives you pause to wonder how society got off track. It asks all of us–all whites in this nation–to look at themselves and see how they may have let racism go unchecked through the course of their lives, and how, by letting it go unchecked, have let it happened. The Powerline piece, on the other hand, illustrates the general irrationality of politically-based discourse in our nation right now by discussing the points in the op-ed in a flippant, dismissive manner. When you’re ultimately discussion the known root cause of an event that caused the death of nine people, I think some respect is in order.
Let’s begin almost right at the top–the Powerline blogger takes issue with a statement (the first paragraph below) and offers their rebuttal (the second paragraph):
We have to stop hiding from the truth of race — that this country, and the state of South Carolina in particular, were created on the idea of white supremacy.
This is a ludicrous claim. A large majority of American states have never known slavery or racially discriminatory laws. The exceptions are the Deep South states, back when they were dominated by the race-obsessed Democratic Party. Some things never change.
Let’s see: this nation from its outset granted only white male land owners the vote. Those land owners took over vast tracts of land from the native peoples, and if they didn’t actually take over the land themselves, they at least were complicit in allowing the government to take it over for the nation. And sure, most of the states didn’t even exist when slavery was still going on, and at that, more than half of them didn’t have legalized slavery, so I guess that’s a valid factual point, and I’ll also concede that even then, people thought better of it than to actually write a discriminatory law (that has apparently changed recently…Hello anti-same sex marriage legislation!–Oh wait, that isn’t discriminatory because it’s actually preserving religious freedoms…). It took a war that nearly tore the nation apart to end slavery. And it took another 100 years to actually put make a law that people need to be treated equally, regardless of their race. And still, organizations actually exist publicly in this supposed non-white supremacist nation whose stated purpose is to maintain white supremacy.
What’s more important is that it clearly illustrates what’s behind the Conservative thought here: they aren’t racist or sexist because 1) they haven’t lived in a state that has known slavery; 2) they haven’t lived in a state that as racially discriminatory laws; and 3) they aren’t obsessed with race or gender. Presumably then, they also believe that they can’t be sexist because women were granted the right to vote decades ago. In short, they assume that since there aren’t any discriminatory laws or slavery going on in this nation, that there can’t possibly be any racism or sexism.
Let that sink in for a minute. I’ll wait.
It’s an assumption that racism is only about slavery and unfair laws. It’s an assumption that racism is only about violence. It’s an assumption that sexism is only about keeping women in the home or preventing them from voting. It’s an assumption that we’ve already dealt with the problem once and therefore it’s gone away. Furthermore, it apparently assumes that any racism (or sexism) that may be left isn’t systemic because the system isn’t supporting or sanctioning it.
Which also means that there isn’t any murder, rape, robbery, white-collar crimes, or any other laws being broken because there aren’t any states that have allowed it, and we’ve legislated against it, and that’s good enough, right?
In addition, the thinking seems to be that as long as you don’t see something happening, it either doesn’t exist, or it exists in circles you don’t want to frequent. Which also makes it fine:
Woods grew up in South Carolina, and claims that he has heard racist comments there. It’s possible. I have spent a fair amount of time in South Carolina, and have never encountered a single racist statement or action. But maybe my friends are higher quality than Woods’s.
And that society isn’t responsible for the acts of an individual:
Woods blames himself for Dylann Roof’s murders. Why? Because he “let the racist jokes go unchecked, … looked the other way at some sanctioned act of bigotry, [and] has not taken the time and effort to listen to what black people have to say about their experience….”
It’s maddening, this head-in-the-sand approach to societal issues. I can only presume that conservatives view racism in particular as something that doesn’t actually affect them, which explains why they believe that Democratic response to this shooting is over the top.
But the writer is correct in one respect: Democrats are indeed race (and gender) obsessed. Because it is a problem. It’s a problem that’s pervasive and deeply rooted in who we are as a nation because this country has always tried to look away from the big problems. We talk about it and deal with it long enough to feel good about it (anyone else remember the women’s rights movement of the early 1970s?) and then we forget it, think it’s over, and move on to the next crisis. And when racism manifests itself as police violence, or one obviously disturbed but deeply committed individual who guns down nine innocent people in their church, everyone should take notice and ask what needs to be done.
The writer of the Powerline piece dismisses the whole thing far too casually to realize its true importance (and actually pivots midway through the piece to make an attack on liberal gun control views, which has nothing to do with the discussion of racism that he supposedly was critiquing). So let me spell it out for this doofus: Nine people died. Nine human beings were killed by a degenerate asshole who believes himself to be better than them simply because they’re black and he’s white, and that by killing them, he would help make his bizarro world a better place. And by assuming he’s the only jackass in the country who wants to do this, just because you don’t see them or we don’t have discriminatory laws or few states had slavery, then you don’t have a clue about how humans operate.
Like it or not, hate is a thing, a very real thing. As long as there’s hate, there will be people who will think of themselves as being better than other people. And as long as you have that, you will always have people trying to control other people by any means possible. Make any of those groups one race and make the other group another race, and you get racism. Period. Society as a whole needs to take responsibility for this and fix it. Not individuals with guns.