And So It Is. . .

I don’t know a single person who was not affected by the horrific events of last week–black, white, green, purple. Everyone who heard and saw what happened in Charleston, SC had to be touched by  incredible, ghastly images of wounded hearts grasping for air through tears of anguish and painful disbelief. Could this be possible? Could this monstrous hatred of black people still be alive to this “uber” degree? STILL? STILL?

People in their 70’s and 80’s, like me, thought we had seen the last of such insanity in our “diverse” American society. Yes, we continue to experience the occasional “wrongful death” episode that victimizes individuals of color, like the most recent ones; unarmed black men being killed by police, but we thought the old days of random meanness toward groups of black people were over, gone, in the past–at least, I did. “Shock and Awe” are words that I’d come to ascribe to war vernacular–stuff that happened “over there” in other countries. But here it was, in my living room! My people being gunned down like dogs in the only place that has been deemed “safe” among African Americans–brought to my eyes by my trusted constant companion, Television. What I felt, watching the initial reviews of what happened, was “shock” and compelling “awe.” Anger and anguish settled in later as the story unfolded to reveal who the shooter was, and what his stated aims were.

As a teacher, I couldn’t help noticing Dylann Roof’s youthful countenance. How many times have I seen those eyes, that hair, that white face in one of my classrooms? I took it all for granted–just another kid, I’d always thought–color never mattered to me in my role as instructor and school “Mom.” Once on campus, and inside my classrooms, I really don’t think color, especially mine, mattered to my students, either. Along with the state’s curriculum, I taught them what love meant; praising them through their triumphs, channeling their interests, chastising them appropriately when behavior called for chastening.  It’s the playbook of parenting and teaching–the co-mingling of roles that has under-girded our civilization for centuries.

School integration was supposed to meld together black, white, and brown students in a way that would eliminate color-consciousness among kids and make possible friendships and alliances that would change race relations in cities and boroughs North to South, East to West. That “dream”, it seems, according to the news of the day,  is yet to be realized. Although Roof attended school with black people and is reported to have had black friends, somewhere, somehow, he still embraced a sense of superiority of them that provided the incentive to “kill black people.” So where did that come from? Assuredly, he was not born with it. No baby leaves the womb with that assignment. I assert that the media, my constant and trusted friend, has been a much more effective teacher of Dylann Roof than the ones in his classrooms. One only has to focus on what is being “taught” in social media: video games, music streaming, Facebook, Insta-Gram and others to understand how impactful are the contents of such programs. We should not be surprised. What we should be, I believe, is ASHAMED.

As parents, teachers, and just plain citizens, we have allowed everyone else, no matter how depraved, perverted, and patently inadequate, to influence the hearts and minds of our kids with smutty, low-class visual images performed by all races and sensuous, sex-oriented audio recordings. We tune in to what they want to hear on our car radios–no matter how lewd or inappropriate lyrics may be, we defer to their “taste” in TV shows and DVD’s–no matter how violent and profane, as if they were astute judges of what is wholesome to take into their immature psyches. Yes, we are contributors to the “New Normal” that pervades our society–especially among our young. It’s no wonder that a  21 year-old “kid”–white, black or green–growing up in such an atmosphere, without the sage guidance and observation of adults would conceive of perpetrating such a heinous, hate-filled act as that which took place in the African American Episcopal Church in Charleston,South Carolina. It’s where black people most definitely would be on a Wednesday night.

I, for one, am tired of hearing the default cliche about incidents,such as this one, being a “wake up call.” If we choose to sleep on in the face of what is destroying our kids, our “dream” of a more peaceful, equitable world will continue to bring up nightmares. It’s time to wake up and “root” out what is rotting the fabric of our society.


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