On the day Dylann Storm Roof was arrested, CBS broadcast its evening news program from the streets of Charleston, South Carolina. News anchor Scott Pelly stood across the street from the historic church in which nine people were murdered. In the stories that followed, the news crew interviewed survivors and the families of those that had been murdered.
I'm old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. As reminiscent of that time as the contemporary scene is, there is a stark difference. The people being interviewed were not the Southern blacks of the 1960s who lived in shanties, didn't own shoes and were poorly educated. These were the modern middle-class blacks who are well-educated, well-dressed, articulate members of their community. Equal opportunity for education and jobs has helped two generations of black Americans achieve middle class status.
Yet, the events of the 1960s still resonate today. The evening news closed with a recording of Martin Luther King’s speech following the death of 4 young black girls in an Alabama church in 1963.
“They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”
I was reminded of the French expression “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. (The more things change, the more they remain the same.)
We are being subjected to myriad explanations of why this has happened and how to fix it. Personally, I don’t buy any of the simplistic solutions I have heard. On guns, for example, neither gun control nor more citizens carrying guns would have prevented this tragedy. Advocates of gun control should remember that the Alabama church was bombed in 1963. There were no guns involved. Those who think the solution is more people carrying guns should recall that President Reagan was shot while surrounded by the best trained body guards in the world, the U.S. Secret Service.
Dylann Storm Roof was disaffected and felt disenfranchised. His like have taken their revenge in movie theaters, at political gatherings, on campuses and in our public schools. Where the disenfranchised find like-minded people, they sometimes become organized. The white supremacist movement took shape in the form of the Ku Klux Klan. When the majority feels disenfranchised, an entire nation can organize around those emotions as happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. ISIS is a contemporary example in the Middle East.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports 935 hate groups in the US, up from 888 when America’s first black president was inaugurated.
I don't know how to stop it. I don't know what should be done. I am hopeful that a more egalitarian generation of Americans – Millennials -- will find solutions.
Are you up to the challenge? If you are, you have my blessing. You have my support. How can I help?
WHO WILL LEAD?