Update, June 22, 2015: Rebecca Traister has written an article for New Republic illustrating how consistently racist violence has been a part of U.S. history that I wish I’d known about when I was writing this entry.
Yes, I blame white supremacism for the killings of nine Blacks in a South Carolina church. But I also blame folks on the left.
With rare exceptions, people on the left have too often been silent or in denial about the depth of the divisions in this country that will never, ever be healed. We have focused instead on electoral politics in an utterly corrupt government, as if voting could somehow resolve the differences between two factions of the population that, to put it entirely too mildly, demonize each other. We have been silent while some people in the South have denied that the Civil War was about preserving slavery, and in effect denied that they are racist.
But this racism is staring us in the face. The Civil War resolved only that the Confederacy would not secede, not that it would die. But still I hear my Democratic Party friends carrying on as if voting the other party out will solve the problem.
One friend, apparently oblivious to the fact that approximately half the electorate disagrees with him over which party is the “worser,” seeks to vote out that “worser” party and thus, in a two-party system, make room for a more progressive party on the left. Such people have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area bubble for much too long.
Seemingly, they quickly forget the political polarization and animus that has been directed at the president they love so much, an antipathy that is not entirely but unmistakeably partly about race. They too quickly write off the existential threat that Blacks face in this country, purely for being black.
But more importantly, they neglect how the divisions between not just Black and whites, but between left and right, and among any number of other polarities serve to preserve the power relations in this country, to protect the elite from challenge. Which is to say that while a white supremacist did the killing, those nine human beings died for elite purposes. And as long as we keep focusing on symbols of division such as the Confederate flag, rather than on coming to some sort of amicable parting of the ways into separate countries, one for those of us on the left, and one for those of us on the right, we are—all of us—in fact complicit in the next genocidal attack.
Note, June 21, 2015: This post has been edited for clarity since it was first published.