"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." --Anias Nin
That is my favorite quote of all time.
It’s 3 am as I start writing this piece. It’s a purely impulsive move on my part, as it’s in response to the recent racially-motivated shootings in Charleston, SC from earlier this week. I was motivated to so because of the amount of willful ignorant, apparently delusional people in America who so seem to come off as sane and/or reasonable upon first glance.
And no, I’m not talking about Dylann Roof—the white 21 year-old perpetrator who walked into the historically-black Emanuel AME church in South Carolina's largest city and proceeded to shoot and kill 9 black parishioners during prayer services because he “wanted to shoot black people.” No, what I am talking about are the people who reject the notion that what the avowed racist did was not an act of “domestic terrorism. “ What is so hard to comprehend? Roof killed to further an extreme political agenda—starting a race war.
I’m going to out on a limb here and conclude that the reason that it’s so hard for those who are questioning whether or not this was in fact, an act of domestic racism is because of two fundamental reasons—both related to race. The first reason I suspect is that because of the prevalence of black-on-black crime within the black community. This is to say that so many Americans are so accustomed to being spoon-fed these negative images of the black community a daily basis, that it’s just too hard for many to comprehend reality that racism against black people is still an issue in modern-day, post first-elected-black-president America. To these people, many within the black community are routinely more likely to be victims of each other than of racism. We all know these individuals…they are the armchair pundits who usually deflect attention away from issue at-hand to tell black people that they should focus on the “troubles in their own communities” instead of “marching” and/or protesting against an act of racism—real or perceived—that shatters the myth that racism is not, in fact, still an issue for some in America.
The second reason why it seems so hard for some to accept that the Charleston shooting was an act of domestic terrorism is likewise related to race---that some people of a particular ideological stripe simply do not want to believe that racism still exist. This is to say that some people are so vested and entrenched in their own ideologically-political (and social) beliefs that they are almost delusional in their perceptions of America—especially as it relates to the perceptions of others. Take for example the following clip from Fox News’ coverage of the Charleston from this week. So unwilling were the producers and talking heads at the conservative news network to believe that the motives behind Roof’s rampage could have been racially-motivated that they totally ignored reality favor of “speculation.” They could not only bring themselves to call Roof’s act a case of domestic terrorism, but found it harder to bring themselves to accept that it was even an act of racially-motivated violence.
They ignored the reality that survivors reported immediately in the massacre’s aftermath that Roof himself declared that he “wanted to shoot black people” because “they are taking over” before he started opening fire inside the church. They ignored the pictures that Roof posted on social medical of himself promoting symbols associated with racist ideologies—including the flag of the old American Confederacy and of the defunct white-ruled African nation of Rhodesia. And they ignored his so-called “manifesto” posted online indicating his white supremacist beliefs...all to the conclusion that “we can’t possibly know his motivations” (“Dylann Roof Photos and a Manifesto Are Posted on Website”).
And it is this level of reality-denial that has fed into the narrative that questions, whether in fact Roof’s rampage in the Emanuel AME Church was an act of domestic terrorism. To embrace this absurd level of questioning, those who deny it resort to hair-splitting distinctions that have no basis in reality. For instance, they cite that Roof acted alone, and that he had no ultimate political purpose in perpetrating his act of violence. Honestly, it would almost amount to a conspiracy theory not to believe that it wasn’t terrorism.
It was agreed that Ted Kaczynski—the so-called “Unabomber”—was a terrorist. He killed, and he did so alone. He—like Roof—also left a ranting manifest outlining his aims and motivations.
Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber killed. He acted alone. He was indeed dubbed a terrorist. He even has a webpage outlining his beliefs (Army of God). What’s so hard for people to accept?
Why are so many Americans so committed to formulating and living by their own distorted interpretations of reality instead of perceiving the reality as it is in front of us? Are we so polarized politically as a nation that we doubt and question reason just out of ideological reflex?
And as we ponder those question, here's another question to ponder...