The mass-shooting at a Black church in South Carolina will have been deeply saddening for anyone who admires the culture of the United States. The perpetrator, Dylann Storm Roof – as ugly and pathetic in appearance as his deeds are in the imagination – deserves (and will surely receive) the death penalty.
But even before this specific event, one could hardly fail to notice the loudening drumbeat of animosity between Whites and Blacks in America. Beginning with the disputed circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida and provided with boosters in New York, Ferguson and Baltimore, the deterioration of race relations has now reached a crisis point.
There is no reason why this had to happen. Black crime rates (contrary to popular belief) are no worse than normal. Police officers (contrary to popular belief) are not being charged with brutality more often than they were. Racism, though more difficult to measure, hasn’t become noticeably more respectable or more widespread. The crisis must then be due to a wildcard factor. And in my opinion this factor is the rise in black political confidence.
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the response in Black communities was hysterical. At long last, sympathetic commentators exclaimed, African-Americans were able to feel like an ‘equal’ and ‘legitimate’ part of American society. No longer could they be dismissed (as they so often had been) as a merely ‘tolerated’ minority group, dependant for their survival on the goodwill of the white establishment. Obama’s election meant Black Americans could finally speak out and demand an equal allotment of respect and dignity – something they were previously shy of doing, fearing the approbation of conservative loudmouths.
With that moment of empowerment, a flood was loosed. All the pent-up stories of indignity and humiliation flowed out on innumerable blogs, twitter accounts, rap lyric sheets and facebook pages. Black people, in euphoric concert, stabbed their flagpole into the soil and demanded the rest of the country adjust and update their behaviours towards them.
In this environment, events that would have previously gone unreported or passed without protest, fell like sparks on tinder. George Zimmerman, now maligned and generally despised, might have remained a little known name if not for the age of Obama. Likewise the Texas cop Eric Casebolt, now in hiding and fearful for his life, might still be at work in any other historical context.
Faced with this rise in Black entitlement, White Americans have been thrown quickly and violently onto the back foot. After riots, hashtag campaigns and endless bouts of admonition from an increasingly authoritarian liberal media, the otherwise polite Middle Classes are beginning to crack. While nothing could possibly justify the hideous murder of praying Christians, the greater context must always be examined.
The historic backdrop to our era is explosive. The White American population, for so long the comfortable masters of their native land, is declining, and declining fast. While Whites are officially due to become a minority in 2042, the real balance of power will switch long before that date. In most major American cities, Whites have been a minority for some time and this is certainly the case in the beautiful (but troubled) ‘Deep South’, the scene of Wednesday’s massacre.
As demographics continue to shift and consequent changes become visible in everyday life, White terrorism (alike Sunday’s massacre) may well become a common feature of American life. And if so, it is likely that this phenomenon will concentrate itself in ex-confederate states, beneath which racist attitudes simmer very close to the surface.
As seems to be the fashion among lone wolf terrorists, the killer at Charleston, Dylann Roof, published a manifesto before embarking on his trail of destruction. He rationalises (or attempts to rationalise) his actions as follows:
“Niggers are stupid and violent. At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick. Black people view everything through a racial lense. Thats what racial awareness is, its viewing everything that happens through a racial lense. They are always thinking about the fact that they are black. This is part of the reason they get offended so easily, and think that some thing are intended to be racist towards them, even when a White person wouldnt be thinking about race. The other reason is the Jewish agitation of the black race… It is far from being too late for America or Europe. I believe that even if we made up only 30 percent of the population we could take it back completely. But by no means should we wait any longer to take drastic action.”
“….To take a saying from my favorite film, “Even if my life is worth less than a speck of dirt, I want to use it for the good of society.””
I find that last quote rather apt. Roof’s life, as it has since been described in the media, would certainly seem to demand a low valuation. The man has prior convictions for possession of methamphetamine, is unemployed and boasts a haircut from the darkest corners of the paedophile underworld. Few people will mourn him when the final plunger is pushed.
What else is there for a European citizen to say about all this?
Well, personally I think it should be remembered (in spite of Wednesday’s events) that the issue of Black on White violence is far more urgent than the reverse. The Charleston massacre is a tragedy, a great tragedy, but thankfully it is of a very rare kind. Unprovoked Black violence on White Americans is an epidemic and must be tackled at the national level.
Nevertheless, unlike between Muslims and Europeans, I see no divide separating Blacks and Whites in America that cannot be bridged, nor any breakage that cannot be repaired. Black people have been an integral part of American culture from its violent colonial beginnings, and cannot be excised from it now. With that in mind, efforts at reconciliation would appear realistic and worthwhile. America is far too mighty to unravel.