Let the record reflect: Charleston

June 21, 2015

I. Say Their Names

Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Susie Jackson

Cynthia Hurd

Tywanza Sanders

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons

Myra Thompson

Ethel Lee Lance

Read their stories. Say their names.

II. Again

What happened in Charleston is so tragic, so heartbreaking, so…American. And so is the reaction to it.

When Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured 14 others last year, I wrote:

Every time someone goes on a shooting spree, we ask why. And then this guy did us a favor and told us why! And the thing about the manifesto is that it is so. Damn. Articulate. Even though you might think someone so concerned with being an alpha male would attempt to come across as one in what is essentially his memoir, it actually reads as remarkably honest. He talks about his pain, his humiliation, and how he’d go home and cry out of frustration after seeing couples out together in public. He seems to own the fact that he wasn’t what he so desperately wanted to be (powerful) because he’s writing with the guns in his possession and his “Day of Retribution” planned. He’s comfortable talking about his own weaknesses, and his motivation is unbelievably clear. It’s also exactly what you’d think his motivation would be if you’ve ever witnessed a misogynist in action, or spent any time on an anti-PUA forum (something I do not recommend if you want to be able to get out of bed ever). So we don’t need to ask why because he told us why.

And yet. Even with the manifesto in front of us, there are still choruses of “This wasn’t about women!” and “But mental illness!” and “Neither guns nor misogyny kill people; people kill people!” and “Not all men are like that!” and “We’ll never really know why he did it” and “But…but…maybe he was gay?” YOU GUYS. DID YOU DO THE READING?

And so here we are again, watching people have the “Gee, I wonder what his motive is” conversation. Even though the alleged shooter targeted a historic black church, one that is a symbol of both resistance and sanctuary. Even though a witness said he straight-up said, “You’re raping our women and taking over our country.” Even though he’s been photographed wearing racist symbols, driving a car bearing racist symbols. Even though, like Rodger, he spelled it all out for us his manifesto. Even though. Even though. Even though.

III. Fear

A few weeks ago, my coworkers and I were on the subway, heading to drinks for one’s birthday. When we got on the train, we made that classic mistake of getting in the mostly-empty car. A few moments later, we heard a guy talking very loudly; at first we thought he was lecturing another rider, but then it became clear he was talking to himself. He was a white guy, appeared to be in his 50s or so, and looked a little shabby but still like he had a bed to sleep in at night. And he was racist.

If a single subway car is mostly-empty, there’s a reason for it.

At first we exchanged glances in that Ugh, NYC, oh no what have we done? way. But as our car rattled along the track, I moved further away from him. I wasn’t the only brown girl in our group, but I was the only black girl, and I didn’t want him to notice me. As we rolled up to the next stop, I said to the group — too lightly, too softly — “Shall we change cars?” No one heard me. As the train progressed to the next stop, he got louder. “Let’s change cars,” I said firmly and loudly as the train began to slow this time. When it comes to angry men ranting about their hatred for women and/or black people, I’m done waiting for someone else to make the first move, done talking myself out of being afraid. The truth is, I am afraid.

IV. Terrorism

Reading last night that the director of the FBI said he doesn’t think this act fits the definition of terrorism left me sputtering with rage.

“Speaking in Baltimore, Comey said his agency is investigating the murders as hate crimes, but that he does not believe they meet the legal criteria for terrorist acts.

‘Terrorism is act of violence done or threatened to in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry, so it’s more of a political act,’ he said.

‘Based on what I know so far I don’t see it as a political act. That doesn’t make it any less horrific… but terrorism has a definition under federal law,’ he said.

The official FBI definition of terrorism defines it as ‘the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.'”

Mr. Comey: Did you do the reading?

V. The manifesto

It’s disgusting, but it’s not shocking. Just your basic, run-of-the-mill racist stuff. Which is why I was afraid of the man on the train — because you just don’t know which ones are going to escalate.

VI. Community

VII. Further Reading

Our Racist History Isn’t Back to Haunt Us. It Never Left Us., The New Republic.

Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable, Esquire.

No Quarter, No Sanctuary, No Succor, The New Republic.

The Deadly History of “They’re Raping Our Women”, Slate.

The Charleston shooter killed mostly black women. This wasn’t about ‘rape’, The Guardian.

Murders In Charleston, The New Yorker.

Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’? The Washington Post.

Jon Stewart on his “profound sadness”

Why calling the Charleston shooting terrorism is important to so many people, Vox.

Hundreds Rally To Remove Confederate Flag From South Carolina Capitol Grounds, BuzzFeed.

Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now, The Atlantic.

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