I feel wrung out. First a balcony collapses here in Berkeley killing six young people – five from Ireland – and injuring seven more. In my town – a building approved by my city. The full inspection information is not in, but the suggestion is that the balcony was full of dry rot. This was a fairly new building – luxury apartments. Full of students. Might this be a case of corporate malfeasance – someone taking a shortcut to amass more profit?
And then almost immediately after comes the news of Charleston. A boy the same age as the young people on the balcony murders nine people, accusing them – some women – one 88 years old – of “raping our women.” A young man infused with hate who thinks what he has done is morally correct..
Should I have been so surprised by either of these things? The roots of both are in our “profit first” society. Chattel slavery is the epitome of “profit first.” Kidnap innocent people, load them like logs on a ship to come to the “new” world, where sixty million of them died before even making it to the slave market. Sixty million! We’re horrified by the six million Jews killed in Nazi Germany. Why are we not horrified by the sixty million thrown overboard like chaff? The ones who survived were beaten if they did not work hard enough to bring in the cotton; they were bred like cattle and their children – an extra profit beyond the profit from their work – were sold.
For some reason many people in this country think we are beyond all that – our ugly past is past. But I believe it is our refusal to recognize our guilt, to acknowledge the horror of what our country did that leads to the kind of act that happened at Mother Emmanuel Church Wednesday night. Rather than recognize our own racism, rather than owning our past and working to make amends for it, we blame the victim. “It happened because something is wrong with them. They rape our women.” Or, “they’re lazy, welfare cheats,” “criminals”. We make up stories about the people we’ve hurt, who we don’t want to face, and then go on hurting and hurting and hurting them.
Some of these stories are being propagated by pundits on the so called news presented by the corporate media and seeping into the impressionable brains of young people like the murderer, Dylann Roof. Why? Where is the profit in promoting racism?
Divide and conquer is certainly part of the strategy. We cannot unite to make sure we have safe working conditions, safe emissions from factories, safe drinking water, safe food to eat if we are busy blaming our problems on black people. It’s a sleight of hand. While one hand is stealing our commons, polluting our land and water, sending jobs overseas, etc., etc., etc., the other is pointing at “those folks” (black people, immigrants, and more) suggesting that it’s all “their” fault.
It’s time to open our eyes. It’s time for reconciliation, for studying our true history, for recognizing that our country’s history has not been all goodness and light. It’s time to see each other in all our complexities, good and bad. It’s time to embrace each other and care – really care.