The events of this last week in Charleston have shocked me beyond belief and yet are too familiar a story. We cannot continue to deny the consistent undercurrent of racism in this country. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine how and why this could happen but the bottom line is that racism continues to take American lives and at some point, we have to put our foot down to protect our own people. While this may feel like an extremist act, it is the act of a mad man echoing the racism of the culture in which he is surrounded. He was enabled, superficially by our lenient gun laws and intrinsically by the values of major groups in this country. The permissiveness that exists in -specifically- the south, allows deep seated racism to continue has been out of hand for some time. Older white generations look back on the 1960’s and 70’s and with all good intentions say, “But look how far we’ve come!” And it’s true, and we are thankful. But that contentedness, that position of accomplishment says “OK! We’re done here! That was hard but now I can stop thinking about it. We fixed it.” It’s hard to keep going, it’s hard to pick that flag back up and get back to work because I’m only 29 and I’m exhausted about it too. Every time we hear of another police officer assaulting a person of color I sigh and think, “Again? Really?” I truly don’t know how Black America can wake up each morning and continue with such fervor, with such passion and hope. It’s exhausting, its demoralizing but damn it, it has to stop.
One of the things that continues to haunt me about the murderous acts Dylan Roof committed is his alleged justification: “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Let me for a moment pick a part this statement to show it’s absurdity. I almost can’t because its so full of lies and flaws and is so unfounded that every word is steeped in so much bullshit, but here, I’ll try: First of all, he didn’t have to do anything. He chose to go and kill innocent people as they prayed. So much of his statement is rooted in an entitlement that we must focus on taking away from generations of misguided white men (and some white women). That was a choice he made, of his own volition and I wish I could stand in front of his face and say that no one, not one person, not God or anybody on this earth has his back. But clearly he’s convinced, shown in his language here, that’s carrying some white flag of entitlement that has bestowed upon him the right to play God; the right to decide who lives and dies in this country. I hope that lawmakers and officials will go to the full length of their ability to find what wave of hate he was riding, what gave him the idea that he could “have to do it.” Second, “You rape OUR women.” When will women, as a whole, stop being a thing to be claimed? We are not objects to own. White women, specifically, are not a white man’s object. We are free beings, free to go and have sex with whomever we want of whichever color skin we want. Sure, rape is always bad, but statistics show that about 90% of all rapes are intra-racial. In other words, most rapists attack people of the same race. So to me, this sentence reads as “You take away our women.” Because women have historically been seen as a prize, or as a symbol of wealth and prosperity- like sheep or cattle- he’s upset at the mixing of cultures and bi-racial families. He’s using old language to spew inbred white supremacist hate and using what he sees as heroic masculinity to justify it. As a white woman, I cannot stand by and not call out this dyed-in-the-wool sense of privilege and misogyny. There are a million other things wrong with this situation, and it’s so full of hate and is so connected to so many tragic stories of our past. This one struck me, this one has offended me personally. I am not yours, I do not belong to White Male America. We will not allow our brothers and sisters to be killed in our name.
I ran across this article by Emma Gray for the Huffington Post and feel that it says everything I could say on the topic but better. And if after reading her piece, you aren’t convinced that white men have used black men raping white women as a scapegoat for violence and racism toward them for hundreds of years, add at Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” as evidence; the ol’ “black man rapes white woman” story is such an old trope that it’s at the center of one of America’s greatest pieces of literature, written 55 years ago. Despite the progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, here we are with the same problems, the same hate, the same pervasive death. We must openly accept that the root cause is also the same and that denying it will get us nowhere.