Call it what it is. Terrorism. Racism. Hatred. It is all of those things.
But there are things we should not call it: Random. Unpredictable. Isolated.
Nine black people were shot in a church yesterday, by a white gunman who is as-of-yet unidentified. Nine people, killed in their place of worship, a place of community and love and prayer. And as we see yet another horrific instance of black people dying at the hands of angry, disaffected white people, we finally see the media beginning to understand.
This is an act of terrorism. This is what a hate crime is. There can be no more misunderstanding of those terms. Terrorism is not just for brown people across the ocean. It’s not just bombs and bunkers and planes flying into buildings. Terrorists can be, and are, Americans. You can be part of a larger plan, or you can be a lone gunman, but you are still a terrorist.
But here’s the thing. Whoever he is, he likely isn’t a lone gunman. Well, not exactly. He’s alone in that he plotted and executed his plan by himself (hopefully, allegedly). But hatred like this is not born in a vacuum. It is born out of a culture that preys on fear and uncertainty, on the paranoid and the xenophobic and the ignorant. It’s a culture that screams about immigration and walls, about ghettos and gangsters, about ni**ers and foreigners and thugs. We breed this hatred. We create it. The easiest source of its birth is places like FOX News, which delights in blaming victims and crowing about gun rights, about condemning thugs and hoodies and why-did-they-run. It’s politicians who prey on the weak and the unknowing, fostering a festering fear in them, creating paranoia and hatred and ignorance. Talking about an America that does not and should not exist. They do it because it creates an enemy, it unifies their base, and it gives them power.
But is also creates hate, and sometimes, that hate brings a man armed with rage and a gun to the doors of the 200 year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
People will tell me not to jump to conclusions, to wait until all the facts are in. Just like they told me about Ferguson, about Baltimore, about every other time a black person got killed by a white person. I will tell them that I think we have enough evidence to safely make that jump. I think we can hear words like “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go” and make some pretty safe goddamn assumptions about a pretty unsafe goddamn world.
People sometimes say that we overstate the race problems in America. That we complain about inequality where there is none, that we see racism around every corner. You want to know why we see racism around every corner? Because racism is around every fucking corner. You may not see it, but it’s there. You may think this is isolated, but it’s not. So blacks and other minorities live in fear. They live in fear of the angry gunman, of the paranoid neighborhood watch volunteer, of the police that should be protecting them. And all of those people — the gunman, the neighborhood watch, the cop — all of them became that way because of fear. The fear that society — that America has created.
People will tell me we don’t have a gun problem. We have a gun problem, America. Here it is, staring you in the goddamn face.
Fix it, America, before it brings this nation to its knees. Stop it. Stop preying on the weak, stop feeding their paranoia, stop fostering their hate and anger and fears for your own personal gain. Because it is quite literally killing people.
UPDATE. They know who he is. There’s even a picture of him wearing an Apartheid-era South African flag, and I’m crying all over again.