Ok students, please open your minds and open your text books to the sociology section. Today we will dissect a concept that has done nothing but harm over the years and continues to serve as a barrier delaying unity and upward mobility for the human species as a whole. Haven’t guessed it yet? Today’s topic is RACISM. If your parents didn’t sign your permission slip for you to participate in today’s discussion or if you don’t believe you can mind your manners throughout today’s lesson, I ask that you leave now. For the rest of you, click ahead and we’ll get started!
Disclaimer and all jokes aside, it really shocked my system when I heard the news about the tragic shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Since this horrific massacre, the hashtag #PrayersForCharleston has gone viral and once again, this great nation has been turned on its side and its citizens screaming for justice, gun control and using terms such as “hate crime” and “racism” to provide speculation as to why this tragedy occurred. If you’ve been living under a rock or refrain from following the news (I can’t say I blame you), during a bible study session on 17 June 2015 after sitting quietly amongst the bible study attendants for approximately an hour, Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old caucasian male open fire in the church sending nine angels home to our heavenly father (Huffington Post). Since the story broke and as mentioned about, there has been a wide array of speculations and hunches as to why this happened. This seems to be the common thing when a tragedy occurs; particularly one that appears to be racially motivated. This time however, there were no riots, pickets or angry mobs of irate African American protestors. Not a single one. Oddly, the media has not covered that aspect of the story or addressed the lack of subsequent violence following the incident at all; just constant use of the terms “black”, “white” and “race”. I’m not sure how you view it, but it appears to me that this time around the way this situation is being handled by those left behind to pick up the pieces is immensely different than other recent seemingly racially motived crimes – the Trayvon Martin, Tony Robinson and Michael Brown shootings to name a few – yet there are still so many ignorant, misguided souls that can only focus on what they perceive to be the focal problem: racism.
Of course, I’ll get to my point in all of this but the usual use of references, profane words, arguments and raw facts and statistics won’t cut it this time. As luck would have it and in the midst of restarting this blog post twice, I stumbled upon these beautiful photos taken today at the Emanuel AME Church. Despite what happened less than a week ago, the church has decided to reopen their doors and continue to worship the Lord and support those that were effected by what happened on their sacred grounds. If that’s not strength and grace beyond measure, I’m not sure what is.
Returning to the photographs themselves, since that seems to be primarily what anyone can focus on, I think its fitting that all of the photos are in black and white. In my humble opinion, since the busyness of color and glare has been removed, black and white photos show more emotion and give the viewer a better feeling, not just visual stimulation, of what was going on when the photo was taken and these photos are no different. Don’t worry, we’ll resume the beauty of this tragedy (the art in the form of the photos I mentioned; don’t get it twisted) in a moment but for now, I’d like to address my stance and confusion on this age old issue that seems to be tearing us apart more than ever: racism.
Call me blissfully ignorant but I can’t for the life of me understand why racism is still an issue. Even from a historical standpoint the whole point of it remains lost to me. As humans its common nature not the get along with everyone you meet and also common to dislike some people but in my eyes, a systemic way of doing so it just plain stupid. No matter what religion you subscribe to or what morals you follow, what is gained by hating someone because of their race? What is so different or so supreme about your race that puts you in a position to believe that you’re better than anyone else? The last time I checked, all humans have the same number of extremities, same organs, same brain, same capacity to learn, love, hate, feel, etc. as the next man so to me, that puts us all on an even playing field. If you truly dislike someone, it’d be understandable if you got to know that person or truly believe that person has wronged you in some way but to up and decide you don’t like an entire race of people just because of their complexion is not only stupid but a major waste of your time, energy and resources. Those who keep themselves in a racist mindset seem to spend an absorbent amount of time trying to convince others to hop on their bandwagon or trying to find ways to bring the group they believe they hate to ruin. In all of the time The Klan, Nazis, white supremacy parties, The Black Panthers (they can get it too!) and other racist groups spent trying to bring other races that couldn’t care less about them and their misguided hatred to ruin, you would think they could have done something far more productive with their time. Maybe, they could’ve done something so epic they would have earned fame and respect rather than infamy and disgust. Just think about it: imagine the amount of money that was spent by The Klan on matches, gas, horses, ropes for nooses, uniforms and whatever else they needed to be horrible. Imagine the time that was spent chasing black people to lynch. Imagine the brainpower and effort it took to harbor that much hatred for a group of people. With all of that money that was wasted over the years could’ve helped support the Soldiers that were still at war by providing food, socks, clean water and if they were really feeling generous, cigarettes. All of that time exhausted could’ve been focused on something a little more productive such as supporting the nations ill during the outbreak of measles and mumps. Lastly, all of the energy that was wasted on hating blacks could have been used to not only come up with plans to put those other two suggestions into effect, but could have been spent in peace and praying for those who needed; not hating others that didn’t hate them in return. If history could be rewritten, which ‘version’ of The Klan would have have looked better in history books: the evil white group that rode around on horses killing people? The ones “we” (everyone; black, white and in between) gawk at and write reports on how ignorant they were and stand in awe that someone didn’t wipe them out sooner? Or the white group that tried to help and make a difference when the country needed? If you read any historical text where a Klansmen was interviewed, he always had some misguided sense of civic duty to his country and family and believe that serving as a Klansmen was a good thing and kept his family safe and nation protected. No offense and God bless the dead but… while you were out chasing people in a bathrobe and hood, how many of you had to bury your sons and daughters because they died of disease while you were “out”? Did hanging that innocent man restore anything that you feel was taken away from you or lost? Have you made your family proud by not only committing a crime, but committing one behind a mask because you were too scared to show your face? Just something to think about.
Aside from the obvious part of it, another element of racism that seems to keep this stupid notion alive is the sheer sense of separation. It was a dark time in American history and for the most part, our country moved past it when we became the United Stated of America; not the North and the South or Confederate and the Union. The War is over and we are now one big happy nation. In knowing this, why are certain remnants of that twisted past still held onto as time honored and something to be proud of? The relic I’m referring to is the Confederate flag. The idea of southern pride makes all the sense in the world. You should always have pride in your roots and where you come from, but that flag symbolizes more than just southern pride. It represents a time when this nation and citizens were so divided that we went to war with each other, couldn’t agree on a flag and even had separate forms of currency and laws on either side of the Mason Dixon. That era has long since passed and the staple of our country is the fact that we’re the melting pot. We are the only country that you may live in and exercise certain inalienable rights such as free speech, the right to pray to whom or whatever you’d like, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to feel safe in your own home and possessions so long as your actions don’t infringe on the rights of others. That is what our flag stands for and what we represent. In knowing this, I believe that the display of a Confederate flag is a willful attempt to hang on to a history that has been squashed and continues to stop us from moving forward as a general population. We cannot have unity if some individuals want to remain outsiders. If you want so badly to hang on to something so archaic and primitive, move to a country where that sort of thinking and behavior is acceptable; not here. In fairness, although I harbor certain opinions about the individuals that keep that part of history going, I find myself even more upset at the states that allow it. In short, I think its a bit enabling and counterintuitive. Don’t preach to the choir and demand justice, peace and order if you and your government at your level perpetuate the problems we’re trying to get past; this goes specifically for South Carolina since they’re the hot button state of this post. Each state within the United States of America has their own flag and the Confederate flag certainly isn’t the one designated for SC or any state at all for that matter. If you want to show pride in your state and southern heritage, hang the flag that your state has earned, your congressmen agreed to and is honored by the nation. Politicians in SC have “argued” the point that the flag isn’t presented in any official ceremonies, events or certain places of business but the sheer presence of the flag still displays the same point of separation. In order for this outdated and silly idea of separation to start to dissolve is to remove all barriers that keep everyone divide and that flag is one of them. Sorry south, the war is over and you lost. Lets move on and make this country a better place than all of our ancestors left it.
The last concept related to racism I’d like to address is the longstanding beliefs that seem to accompany this twisted way of thinking. To date, through lots of research and still coming up short, I can’t for the life of me understand how some of these notions came to be but, still they stand. It is a racist yet common belief that black people are violent, aggressive and dumb – as if your ethnicity dictates how you choose to behave and handle yourself – whereas its a common belief that white people are non-violent, logical and intelligent. It is not my intention to get into a debate on either side of that but in light of what happened in Charleston and the other events that were mentioned in the beginning, lets point out the obvious: Of the three shootings that were mentioned, what were the nationality of the shooters? White. In Charleston, what was the nationality of the shooter? White. In the three shootings mentioned above, what was the court recorded justification for the shots being fired? Panic and fear. In the Charleston shooting, what was Roof’s self proclaimed reason to open fire in a predominantly black church? To start a “race war”. Prior to being shot, what were the people in the Emanuel AME Church doing? Praying and peacefully discussing scripture. In the three shootings discussed, prior to being shot what were the teens who were killed doing? Two were walking down the street to get home and one was playing on the jungle gym at a local park. Last but not least, after the madness died down in Charleston and the healing process had begun for the families who lost their loved ones during the shootings, what did they do? Prayed, reopened the church, mourned their losses during a public vigil and prayed some more. You can take those facts as you will, but between the two, African American’s don’t appear to be violent, dumb or aggressive and caucasians don’t seem to be non-violent, logical and peaceful. Upon our creation, God gave us all free will. If you prefer the scientific approach, all humans were born with the mental capacity to make decisions freely. No matter which logic you believe in, no ones behavior is bound by their race or ethnicity. For all humans to kill or not to kill, to hate or to love, to be violent or peaceful is a matter of personal choice; nothing more and nothing less. Do not be so ignorant, foolish or blind as to believe that a person’s behavior is a product of their race. Evil comes in all colors and is not limited to those with darker skin and heaven knows kindness is the same way and as we see, its certainly not something thats only reserved for those with skin like snow. Just something to think about.
With all that’s been addressed in mind, how far does racism really go for a person who holds on to this ignorant way of thinking? I mean, does a racist just stop at “I hate [insert race] people” and stays away from them while trying to spread their hatred to others? Or does it stem beyond that? In a truly racist mind and heart, would such a person sacrifice their own life for their belief? Here’s the scenario: hypothetically, if you were dying and needed a heart transplant or a blood transfusion, as a racist would you care that the heart or blood that’s being given to you came from a donor who belongs to the race you believe you hate? Would you accept the transplant or transfusion because you want to live to die another day? Probably. When these things happen, the hospital does not disclose to the patient the manner in which the donated organ or fluids were acquired. For the sake of thinking, lets play Devil’s Advocate; the same scenario applies but here’s the catch: when the beeper your family member is given to notify them when a donor has been found, let’s say upon request, the hospital was willing to disclose a little more detail about your perspective new organ or fluids. What if they did tell you how the heart was acquired (gang shooting or car accident), let’s also say they were willing to give you the name of the donor, lastly, let’s say the hospital was willing to disclose the documented race of your donor. With all you know now, do you accept the transplant or transfusion? If you answered “yes” or know in your heart of hearts that would would accept it, I don’t think you’re really racist. I think you may be misguided and follow an ignorant way of thinking because someone told you it was correct. That, or you value your life more than a silly ism that you hold on to and if that so be the case, are you really ride or die racist or just one in title? If you are just a racist in title, why hang on to it? Let it go. People are amazing and you’d be surprised at what you can learn from others of a different race if you open up your mind. If however you answered “no” to the transplant, then you are certainly part of the problem and heaven help you.
I really hope I’ve given you something to think about. Racism is silly, ignorant and something that should have been laid to rest years ago along with other stupid isms that seem to plague the American populous’ way of thinking. I sincerely believe that this is an issue that can be resolved through time and honest effort but will only work if everyone plays and active role in it. This way of thinking serves no purpose for anyone and if nothing else, hinders us from moving forward. If you would, take a moment to think back to any violent tragedy that has occurred. 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and Oklahoma City Bombing just to name a few. During those times we were able to band together and support one another to get through the tragedy, support those who lost loved ones and ultimately restore what was broken. In time however, it appears that we backtracked to the previous racist and segregated state of mind. If we are able to come together and get along in times of catastrophe, why can’t we do the same on a day-to-day basis and during times of peace? Here’s hoping for change!
Now that the key topic has been addressed, I can hop off of my soapbox for the moment and finally show you the pictures I mentioned! Photographer Justin Falk snapped these amazing pictures earlier today during Emanuel AME Church’s public vigil for the nine individuals who were killed during the shooting. As you’ll see in the pictures, the participants in the vigil are both black and white and this was an extremely peaceful event. Official statistics haven’t been released yet but from the looks of it, there were well over two hundred people present and not a single police officer or barricade in sight. Please take a look at the images below and take a moment to say a prayer for everyone involved and if nothing else, find it within yourself to make a change.