It is truly appalling to see that a tragedy so conspicuously painted in racial terms reduced and represented as a show of hostility against the Christian faith. The attempt to represent the Charleston shootings as a religious attack is a strategic erasure of the elephant in the room: that America had never really disentangled itself from the plague of slavery, segregation and discrimination.
By Pragya Chawla
Despite the tragic bloodshed that took place in Charleston, a sect of White Christian America assures us that assuming the attack was racially motivated is too much a leap of faith. It was a church, not a basketball court, wasn’t it?
It must be an attack on religious freedom, and an attack on the rights and welfare of conservative Christians. Claiming that every tragedy victimises the average conservative Christian, independent of what actually happened in any event, is not new, but a malicious motif. Victimising yourself is a great way to avoid conversations that makes you uncomfortable or land your own actions into question.
In fact, Dylan Roof, donning a confederate flag, himself used the “but we’re the real victim’” argument minutes before killing 9, claiming that “he had to do this” because “[black people] are raping our women and taking over the country.”
It turns out that despite the explicit mention of racial motivations by the killer himself, according to national media, the cold blooded murders, were in fact, not an attack motivated by hatred of black people in a historically significant black church, but an attack on the faith and religious liberty of White Americans. If only someone in the church had a gun this wouldn’t have happened, if only Christian Americans weren’t so persecuted for their religious views.
This is an outrageous attempt to dodge the argument that should not be tolerated.
It is truly appalling to see that a tragedy so conspicuously painted in racial terms reduced and represented as a show of hostility against the Christian faith. The attempt to represent the Charleston shootings as a religious attack is a strategic erasure of the elephant in the room: that America had never really disentangled itself from the plague of slavery, segregation and discrimination, that the vestiges of the past are much too prevalent in contemporary and particularly Southern culture and there is little being done about it.
Policy and law have failed the black people and this conversation is being dragged off centre-stage. This ‘erasure’ of very real racism should infuriate anyone with the slightest sense of empathy for the Black civil rights struggle, the iconic products of which are appropriated, commercialised and sold but innocent people shot.
While billions are earned in the trade of glamorous symbols of the civil rights movement: rap, R&B, rhythm, choreography and fashion trends, there is still a baffling debate on whether or not the confederate flag, a symbol of slavery, should be banned.
Heavy emphasis is being placed on the fact that the families of victims forgave Dylan Roof and he was ‘mentally ill’ whereas the many cases of arson in Southern black churches this week remain under-reported.
This persistent emphasis on forgiveness translates to an attempt to forget, to brush aside, to erase history and the relative failure of national media on racial violence speaks for itself.
While one can only aspire to be as big-hearted as the families of the victims, it will take a great deal more compassion, attention and honest, well-intentioned conversation to bridge the growing chasm between communities.
(Pragya Chawla is a 16-year-old student doing her AS levels in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She pursues poetry, prose and social commentary as hobbies.)