tl;dr — This is horrible. To anyone who lost someone yesterday, & to anyone who finds the world a little more terrifying after seeing this in the news, you have my sincerest condolences, although I know they count for very little. I’m sorry.
Given that I’ve written several posts about race & racial conflict in this country, K thought I should write something about the most recent tragedy in the news. But even though this particular hateful, deranged individual couched his hatred in racial terms, this, to me, is very different from the police-perpetrated murders that have been in the news recently.
Recent episodes involving the police reflect institutional biases — those stereotypes, and the ease with which juries, review boards, fellow officers et al. can be convinced that actions were justifiable reveals persistent unfairness in our country. Although “unfairness” is a rather bland word for inequities that put people’s lives & their loved ones’ lives at risk: I still think Charles Blow’s piece about his son is terrifying. And I think it’s terrifying while reading it from within the safety of my white skin, and with a daughter who is even paler than I am… blue eyes, even. Thinking about how it would feel for a black parent to read his article, or to watch any of these recent cases, or to follow the Trayvon Martin case, or to learn U.S. history, is gut wrenching. I am lucky that I don’t know how it feels, and instead know only that it must feel awful.
Despite the recent press about race in the U.S., there’s still a lot more that needs to be said, obviously. We’ve switched from barely talking about these issues to discussing them a little, but that doesn’t mean these injustices are being given the full weight they deserve — “better” is very different from “good.” Even with the little bit of press some of these issues have received, a lot of the underlying economic issues are still not being discussed. Wealth begets wealth, and the initial prosperity of this country came from sin. Everyone here who enjoys good fortune today benefits from & is thereby marked by an evil whose reverberations have not ended & will not end on their own.
Black students are still under served, still kicked out of schools for infractions that would incur lesser punishment if committed by their peers, and are saddled with the additional psychological burden of knowing they’ll be treated unfairly in this country, while in school, while applying for jobs, while trying to walk safely home.
That said, from the initial news reports I don’t think it’s helpful to lump this newest tragedy into the same category of horrors as all the police abuses — as was K’s initial reaction. Because no matter how far we come as a society, there will always be crazy people. Brains are fascinating, poorly understood organs, and there is a lot that can go wrong. A crazy person might latch on to any number of groups as being worthy of hatred: blacks, Muslims, women, Democrats — there have been shootings that reflect all of these recently, right? It’s perhaps easier for crazy people to latch onto groups for which membership is visibly recognizable as targets for hatred, but this case doesn’t seem fundamentally different from those who blame gays, or commies, or Jews, or… for a society’s ills.
I think the biggest issues here are, our country needs to do a better job addressing mental health, and we have to recognize that the scale of these tragedies is proportional to the type of weaponry we consider it to be a citizen’s God-given right to buy. We will perhaps never prevent every hateful person from attempting murder, but a hateful bigot with a knife can effect much less damage than a hateful bigot with a semiautomatic handgun. And, now that guns exist, we can never expunge them from our society, but we could make them harder to acquire & make the legal repercussions of ownership steeper.
Which won’t help anyone who lost their life or a loved one yesterday, or anyone who now feels a little more terror in their day to day life after seeing this happen. You have my sincerest condolences, although I know they count for very little.