What needs to be said about Charleston

This was originally published as a 50 Tweet rant on Twitter, the morning of June 19, 2015. https://www.twitter.com/bdjanu

I wasn’t sure what to say about what happened in South Carolina. As a history teacher, I knew this event was not unusual. It is something that has played out over and over again throughout our troubled history of race and white supremacy in this country.

I have attempted in the last 24 years to teach kids about this history. I want them to know about the 16th Street Baptist Church. I want them to know about Emmett Till. Mary Turner. Henry Smith. I want them to know about the brave men and women who risked life and limb to put an end to the oppression and hatred.

I want them to listen to “Strange Fruit” and feel the timelessness of its story.

But Charleston…this felt different. This was a church that has been in the thick of it since the beginning.

But when I saw pictures of that fucker with his bowl haircut, his Confederate flags and his apartheid patches, I knew he was no different than those guys who beat Emmett Till to death in 1954. He was no different than the guys who tied James Byrd to the back of their pickup in 1998. He was no different than those members of the Klan who firebombed dozens of churches in 1995.

This was a mass lynching, plain and simple.

Charleston is another sad example of how we as a country have not lived up to our ideals.

The ubiquitous nature of social media and instant video amplifies the problem and makes it appear as if things have gotten worse. “Liberty and justice for all?” “All men are created equal?”

Not if you have darker skin. That is the way it has always been.

We will never live up to our ideals until we fully face our history about race in this country. And that is hard to do when so many people refuse to accept our history. It is only when we acknowledge our history can we truly begin to heal and build a world on those ideals we think we live by.

This was racial terrorism — -no different than what has been happening to the black community for 200 plus years.

This was not about religion. That is what has gotten me the most angry: people unwilling to accept the truth and are now saying that this was an “attack on Christianity.”

No, it was not an attack on Christianity.

Senator Lindsey Graham said as much on The View yesterday. He said that this guy was an example of people “looking for Christians to kill.” Saying as much diminishes our history and turns people into victims who have no right to claim that mantle. Lindsey Graham, you are not a victim. You have not suffered true persecution. This was not about your religion being attacked.

Senator Lindsey Graham, next time you want to ignore the racial motivation in this attack: Shut the fuck up.

In 1822, the AME Church in Charleston was burned to the ground. It wasn’t an attack on religion then, it was an attack on the people who attended that church. No different than what occurred there the other night.

Yet Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Fox news called this “an attack on faith.”

Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Shut the fuck up.

Anyone at Fox News attempting to spin this story into something it is not: Shut the fuck up. It is your pandering to the fringe that has contributed to this situation in the first place.

To anyone who waxes poetic about the tradition behind the Confederate flag: shut the fuck up.

That is a flag of treason, murder and racism. It shouldn’t be flying anywhere in the United States of America at all. And, most certainly, it shouldn’t be flying over the S.C. statehouse where every other flag was flown at half-mast.

So Governor Nikki Haley, don’t talk about how “we’ll never understand what motivates” killers. We do know and part of the reason is flying outside your window.

Governor Haley, the next time you want to defend the flag or pretend not to know the truth behind what motivates people to walk into a black church with automatic weapons: shut the fuck up.

To the National Rifle Association, where blaming victims is as popular as sticking up for gun rights: shut the fuck up. The people who were killed in Charleston are not at fault for their own deaths.

Racism has shaped our history and our collective refusal to acknowledge this fact holds us back. There can be no more sugar-coating. There can be no more passing the blame or pretending the cause lies elsewhere. We need to call out racism. Whether it be on tv, coming out of the mouths of politicians, in our police stations or courts, we need to call it out. We need to call events like what happened the other night by their true name: terrorism.

We need to hold a mirror up to ourselves, strip away the masks and make-up.

We may not like what we see. But that is a start.

And maybe one day, with hand on our hearts reciting the Pledge, the words “with Liberty and Justice for all” will finally ring true.

Educator. Historian. Filmmaker. http://www.bellbookcamera.com

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