The massacre of nine African American People of faith in a bible study at Emmanuel African American Episcopal Church an historical church in Charleston, South Carolina reminds me that there are few if any boundaries in our society when it comes to black people and the senseless terrorism experienced. Once again the black church is the scene of racial hatred, violence and death. With this incident coming on the heels of a white woman claiming to be black I am left asking, why? Yes there are simplistic answers but these answers don’t address the core issue of how and why we produce people who do what should be considered absurd and blatantly evil. Admittedly times of change and transformation considered hopeful for people such as myself as a black, transgender woman, are liberating, yet for some, in this case a young 21 year old white male who has been identified with white supremacist symbols and ideology, times of change and transformation, can cause anger and inflict fear, pain and displacement, which I believe at some level to be an issue of mental health. That said, the question is, at least for me, is, “How do we fix this?”I believe that we must have the political will and socio-cultural courage to take on the hard stuff of working on ourselves as a people who claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. We must be willing to look into the abyss, as John Stewart of the Daily Show pointed out, and see ourselves and our nation for who we truly are. We spend billions of dollars seeking to sooth some emotion and material inequity engaging existential threats but very little to address our own internal domestic terrorism. We ask, of the Taliban and ISIS, “How is the terrorist produced?” We should look no farther than our own oppressive constructs and how these constructs communicate to us, declarative statements such as “This is who you are.” I am reminded of Marvin Gaye’s song, “What’s Going On” of 1971 in one sense, similar to the war in Vietnam, the war on terrorism has become a means to keep our attention off of what really matters, what is really going on within. It’s an expensive scheme indeed.
Tragedies which occur in life are typically symptoms of deeper more critical, even life threatening issues. In a recent Facebook post I suggested that the United States should be reconstituted so as to provide for a new sense of being not biased toward the construct of race historically developed for the furtherance of privileged white men and their economic interests. This might be considered a tall order simply because the construct of race defines so much of life here in the United States. It is sacred and holy ground, more so than our humanity, and it doesn’t take kind to any violation as seen in the controversy of Rachel Dolezal and others. Yet I, as an African American fully aware of the price of admission required to claim my blackness or any other racial identity, want to suggest here that our socio-cultural and political bias towards race is becoming more and more fraught with fear, and senseless violence as the demographics shift. One way of addressing this bias is by developing controlled listening spaces throughout the country where people wherever they fall of on the spectrum of race can speak freely about race, racism and its effects. This might go well for those who are fearful of some backlash.
As a nation of the 21st century we must not allow race and racism to be our Achilles heel. We must take concerted efforts to gradually move beyond race as a central narrative of our country and republic.