Things You Can’t Kill (A Meditation on Charleston)

Things You Can’t Kill (A Meditation on Charleston)

Most of the time nothing really happens.

Most of the time we can delude ourselves into thinking that life is pleasant or boring or whatever the word “normal” means. We lull ourselves into that false security, of the lies we tell ourselves every day to keep going: Bad things happen to other people; you will live to see old age; you’re safe in your home, in your town, where you work, where you play and where you worship. We have to tell ourselves this, otherwise we’d stop functioning, knowing that anything could happen and often does happen, at random.

Racism happens.

In America, bad things happen to black people both directly and indirectly due to racism. Systemic or remnant of slavery, it’s always out there, threatening to touch you.

Most of the times it touches in ways that hurt the heart, career and pocketbook more than the body. We’ve come to expect to slurs, missing out on job opportunities and being denied loans. You get mad, you sometimes act on it, but most of the time you don’t. You absorb the slight or you let it slide off and you move on. But you never get used to violence. You never get used to someone trying to enforce racism with force. And when the face of oppression turns into a demented high school drop out shooting up your Bible study, killing your leaders, elders, bright future and loved ones, it’s scary and you feel powerless even if what is fueling that drop out is inherently moronic.

You rape our women? Someone spent a lot of time on racist sub/Reddits. But just because it’s stupid doesn’t make it any less deadly. Stupid things get people killed everyday, which is why stupid things about racism get taken so seriously.

Black people aggressively police things like slurs, appropriations, the word “thug,” black face and discrimination, and Dylann Roof is the reason why. If you can dehumanize us, if you can belittle us, if you can erase us from our own culture, it is a slippery slope encouraging those who are much more determined to kill us. They attack our elderly and our children, the soft targets because they are terrorists. They want to “scare” us back to our place – slave or the grave.

It hasn’t worked though.

Racial progress is happening, has happened and will continue to happen. No matter how bad things may seem after something like Charleston there was a time when Roof would have had an entire crew to run through a black part of town with, raping and murdering, then burning it to the ground. That happened a lot after Reconstruction ended, in places like Rosewood, Fla., Tulsa, Okla. and East St. Louis, Ill. Even as recent as the 1960s Roof could have at least joined the legitimate seeming White Citizens Council or he could have terrorized Civil Rights workers with gangs of recently deputized police officers.

But in 2015? The Grand Wizard in his own mind was alone.

The fact that he and his racist delusions had to act alone shows that even he knew his standing was weak. Even if he had friends who were passive towards his racist jokes and rhetoric, he didn’t have any who were willing to go on a murder spree with him and risk being ostracized by the larger white community. Sure, systemic racism says you can discriminate against black people, have the police kill them or dress up like Bloods and Crips for Halloween, but killing them yourself while channeling the Confederacy? How déclassé. No one was going to back that horse. Roof’s war, one of stopping black men from dating, having sex with and marrying white women while keeping African Americans from positions of political power is long lost. You can’t put the born of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, Barack Obama Presidency genie back in the bottle.

The only co-conspirator Roof could find was history. He rode with the ghost of a KKK that once held politicians and judges and now only contains fellow irrational losers. He walked alone with a racist history that he wanted to return us to through his delusion that by killing churchgoers he could start a race war. His fantasy was as naive and stupid as it was deadly and violent. No one should have lost their lives because he was a racist moron, yet people did because you don’t need to be smart to point and shoot. People died because for Roof, words weren’t just words and the past was something that could be resurrected via a bullet.

While it is likely that little will be done to prevent future Dylann Roofs, that safety is an illusion and that stupid things can get innocent people hurt and killed – nothing can kill our progress. Black Americans are in this for the long game, as we have always been. We’ve moved from Respectability Politics where “some” black lives mattered, to now fighting for all black lives, regardless of their education and what they’re wearing. You only get to that vision because we have accomplished so much despite being the descendants of former slaves, stripped of everything – family, culture, religion, personhood – and only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

This little 13 percent created helped build a nation, created jazz, Hip Hop, rock n’ roll and the blues; innovated in the arts and sciences; has traveled in space; lead movements; dominated feats both athletic and academic; created universities and colleges; built institutions; and currently sits in Congress and the White House.

It’s not that black people don’t have problems or that we, as a people, don’t still have some ways to go to true equality in this country, but when you consider the slaughter of our innocents and how many times those who hate us have tried to silence us with violence and it simply did not work, you can’t help to see the beauty in our resiliency.

You can kill us, but you can’t really kill “us.” You can’t kill the heart and the spirit of a people who have survived the darkest of days. If slavery couldn’t do it. If Jim Crow couldn’t do it. If the White Citizens Councils and the Klan couldn’t do it. If the segregationists couldn’t do it, one violent monster most certainly can’t.

You can’t kill the will of Black America. You can’t kill the long march to racial equality. Those who stand on the wrong side of history will be absorbed by it and their names will not be remembered. Their actions? Ultimately futile. A cruel violent wave trying to tame an ocean and other things you can’t kill.

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