Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, June 19, 2015


I attended the Spoleto festival some years back. A friend of mine was in the orchestra (he may read this and may want to comment) so he snuck me into the rehearsals and the concerts, and I slept in a College of Charleston dorm with the orchestra. Emmanuel AME Church is just 3 blocks from there.

One thing I definitely remember about Charleston was that the racism was palpable -- so thick you could cut it, in fact you needed a sharp knife.  The city was completely segregated. The only black people you saw around the touristy part of town were menial workers, and the audiences at the concerts were 100% white. When my friend and I left town, we stopped for gas in a big, block-owned gas station in a black neighborhood, and the miasma of resentment was inescapable. Maybe thing have changed a bit -- it seems like it, from the news reports -- but Dylann Roof didn't just happen. Judging from the way his friends are talking, yeah, he was a little more up front but they didn't think there was anything strange about his virulent racism.

As for the Confederate flag. Yes it celebrates heritage, but the specific heritage it celebrates is white supremacy and treason. And, as I have asked before, exactly what is it supposed to mean on all those pickup trucks in Connecticut? Just the same thing it means in South Carolina, I would say. It certainly isn't about Connecticut history and our Civil War dead.


Don Quixote said...

Yep, indeed I want to comment.

Cervantes saw more of that racism in S.C. than I did at that time. I was busy playing my trumpet at the time. I've lived in the south over the years, and it is true that for many, many people there--virtually all of them caucasian people--the Civil War, or as many still refer to it there, the "War of the Northern Aggression," has not ended and is not over. There is a fascination with that war in the south that most folks in northern and western states do not know exists. The war's outcome is not accepted by a lot of folks down there--and I include dear friends in this group--any more than it was accepted by Robert E. Lee. Or John Wilkes Booth.

It has been reported that Dylann Roof had African-American friends. There is a cognitive dissonance that exists around racism in this country. People say, "I'm not a racist." And they mean it. And they are, in fact, racists; because it is pressed into the fabric of this country and society. We imported the first slaves in 1619--and the first-ever slavery museum is opening now! Privately funded, of course! And the first slave ship just being raised from the ocean. This government, this country as a whole, has NEVER come to terms with the true history of the USA--that stolen humans were enslaved and built this country. The people Dylann Roof said "have to go" are almost all descendants of folks that were brought here against their will by--caucasian Americans!

Therefore, the history of racism in the United States is the history of a holocaust--and that's what it was. How many millions died in transit? An entire group of people separated from their families and brought here to be enslaved, to be tortured and raped. And Dylann Roof, who is obviously mentally ill and full of hate, projects his mental illness and hatred onto something outside himself and accuses an entire people of rape--which is what Dylann Roof's ancestors did to the imported slaves. Dylann's sick thinking exists because it's taught every day of our lives in popular culture, in the media, in schools, and by ignorant families.

Here was a racist headline from today's news: Lester Holt to become first black anchor on a major news network.

Pardon me? Why is his skin color mentioned? Oh, yes, some ignorant, racist caucasian folks in the media--who don't know they're ignorant and racist--think they're doing someone, or an entire people (!), a favor by labeling someone due to his skin color. "Oh, we're trying to show African-Americans that they can take pride in their heritage!" Excuse me, but you have no business speaking for them. Educate yourselves. Only when you can report on the election of a woman without referring to her gender, or anyone without referring to his skin color, or the hiring of someone in the media without reference to either, will you have made some significant progress toward the elimination of your own bias, prejudice, and, yes, racism.

Part 2 to follow--there's a 4,096-character limit to posts in this blog format.

Don Quixote said...

Part 2:

The schools in the USA need to teach kids what the slave trade was, how many folks died, what they experienced in transit, how they were tortured, killed, and raped, and how they were forced to work the plantations of the south and build this country. Reparations need to be made to the descendants of those folks. And yes, also the descendants of Native Americans need to receive reparations and land for what was taken from their ancestors--at least those who are left after that genocide.

Deal with racism--teach kids what happened in this holocaust--and other problems will resolve from the top down. So many things will come into line:

--We will truly become a melting pot.
--We will stop making capitalistic wars in places like Iraq with public approval because the people there are "colored." When was the last time we bombed the shit out of any white folk? 1945, Germany? And only because we were attacked. We think we have the right to bomb and kill all over the world because these people of color aren't people to us. They're less than human, right? Like the slaves we imported?
--Economic equality will have a chance at becoming a reality, as we begin to see humans for what they are--human!
--People will begin to open their eyes and truly live with compassion, knowing that no one is "less than" or "greater than" because of gender, skin color, etc.
--True education will become possible as we de-segregate.
--Racial profiling will end, and along with it, the fear people live in and the murder with impunity that police commit.

Impossible? Why? They do it in Canada. And parts of Europe.

We need to start educating our kids and ourselves and TELL THE TRUTH about what happened here--how all these folks of African-American ancestry were brought here and murdered, raped, tortured, enslaved, and generally fucked up and fucked over. We need to do everything we can to make it right in whatever ways we can.

Yes, the confederate flag is representative of slavery and exploitation. Yes, it needs to go. The very fact that some folks in the south is just proof of the degree to which they are in denial of history. The war is OVER. Give it up. We cannot live in denial--of racism, of climate change, of bigotry, of history. People like Dylann Roof post on Facebook and other social media. They should be receiving medical attention before they commit acts of terror. There needs to be a special cabinet post dedicated precisely to identifying and re-educating (or obtaining medical help for) people who hate themselves and are projecting their hatred out onto others. Dylann is 21, a common age for the development of schizophrenia psychosis. I would imagine he is possibly a candidate. He could have received help way before this if we'd all been educated as to the signs of psychotic breaks, or at least terribly aberrant behavior.

Education. Real education. It's the answer. And by "education," I mean the conveyance of actual, factual information along with the critical thinking skills needed to process it.

kathy a. said...

Excellent, Don Quixote. And thanks, Cervantes.

I lived in Charleston for several years in the 1980's, and I worked for poor people, which often meant black people, and so my particular crowd was maybe more open-minded than the larger population. And Charleston itself was (despite the stupid lines from drivers of tourist-oriented horse-drawn carriages about the War of Northern Aggression beginning when the North fired back) much more welcoming than other parts of the state.

This thing is so horrifying. My job was blocks from where this shooting occurred; it is unimaginable to me that it could happen there, but it did. Nothing like this has happened there, not for many many decades.

The flag needs to go down. Guns need to be restricted, which is basically impossible politically, but even Charleston's longtime mayor has long been in favor of gun control. People need to tell other people when someone they know is spouting hate talk that veers toward violent action. Intervention is needed for damaged folks; and yes, he is just at the age when some major mental illnesses kick in. Yes, about education -- about history; about what are danger signs. A lot needs to change.

robin andrea said...

Don Quixote and kathy a said it all. I just say thank you.

kathy a. said...

The surnames of some of the victims are common around Charleston -- e.g., Pinckney, Middleton. Those were originally the names of plantation owners in the area. African Americans with those names are likely descendants of the plantation slaves.

It is hard to imagine how much plainer the connection between history and this event could be. Although words attributed to the defendant are also eerily similar to words used by The Donald just this week: he had to do it, because "they" are "raping 'our' women", and "taking over 'our' country". When political or celebrity figures use that kind of speech, shouldn't those figures bear some responsibility when someone listens?

There's a lot of blame to go around. Just won't even get started on how guns had nothing to do with it, because obviously a gun did.

kathy a. said...

(About Spoleto. A lot of people who live in town only go to select events, and the cursing of tourists is universal. So, one visit at that time may not have been representative.)