Recent events in South Carolina cry out for a wholesome response. Below is an extension of the previous blog on freedom and human dignity. I’m presently on book tour with my fourth book, Hurry Down Gunntown, where a similar theme is emerging.
Impressment, billeting of British officers, losing control of what was coming in and out of our country, and a striving for a more democratic way of life, were just some of the issues that led to radical changes in North America in the late 1700s. After the mass killing of African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, the need for substantive changes are on the national agenda again.

Of course, the fight against racism and its ugly entrails have been on the agenda of left/progressive movements for decades. It has taken the cell phone era to literally capture the violence directed at African Americans for all to see. President Obama said it best. This is nothing new.

I remember returning to my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut in the mid-1970s and events there. A young African American man was walking in the north end of the city. He was told to halt by police. The information we have is solely that of the police. They saw a shiny object, thought it was a gun, and killed the youngster. The object was a radio. There was a second happening where police gunned down an armed African American male. Yet in a similar circumstance, a white male was disarmed with no injuries.

An organization was born at this time called Waterbury People United Against Racism. It had black, white and brown leadership. There was a march on city hall and a mass meeting at the old Wilby High School. One concession came out of this struggle. Existing major political parties nominated two African American candidates for state representative in the north end. The town had its first black state representative. Unfortunately, it took the deaths of two African Americans and the grassroots response to it, to make this happen.

The political home where racism festers and bursts forth is a known brand. While police departments are under somewhat more scrutiny of late, the ideological and political sources lie elsewhere. Nor does it arise from a deranged individual here or there as I am hearing of late. The breeding ground for this smoldering hatred is the extreme political right.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has touted the warning signs for years. With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, armed militia groups in our country quadrupled. The Center counts 784 hate groups in the country. A Justice Department statement indicated that, since 2000, twenty-five law enforcement officers have been killed by right-wing extremists who fear government confiscation of firearms.

Let’s be clear on this point. We are not referring to Muslim initiated actions here. Since 9/11, there have been 50 deaths perpetrated by American Muslims. In the same period, non-Muslim right-wing extremists have caused 254 fatalities. According to the Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, that latter number has increased since 2012.

But such activities and the one at the church in Charleston do not occur in a vacuum. They are encouraged by more “official” and seemingly acceptable events. Just five years ago in the same city a 19th century ball, including the singing of Dixie, exalted the racist and counter-revolutionary secessionist movement. It was all white. While Charleston is celebrated as “progressive”, its black population, through gentrification, has seen a decline of 16%.

Charleston’s deeper history has its warnings. The Denmark Vesey led slave rebellion in 1822 was put down with a vengeance. Thirty-five were hung. And this is most telling. The A.M.E. church was burned to the ground.
The attacks on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care, have had racist overtones. Even the Pope was not spared. David Brooks, Op-Ed writer for the NY Times, led the way. He attacks the Pope’s encyclical on the environment as “relentlessly negative”, “condemns market-based mechanisms”, and “links self-interest with violence.” Brooks then chastises the Pope, a la Ronald Reagan, because he does not recognize, “greed can lead entrepreneurship.” Apparently the Pope came too close in hooking up greed and violence.

Solutions are many and varied. Racism can no longer hide behind freedom of speech. The four freedoms of FDR need to be extended and codified in law. Racist literature, whether in print or on-line, needs to be outlawed and purveyors should be fined and/or imprisoned.

Second, the disparity in living conditions needs to be vigorously addressed. It is a classist and racist legacy that needs to be halted. A living wage and an extension of Obama care e.g. a single payer system, would have the USA join the rest of the developed world. Most importantly, the four centuries of chattel slavery and the ideology of racism that arose to defend it, need to be addressed head on. An official government apology followed by a structured system of reparations involving jobs, housing, and education need to be on the political front burner.

Now, how do we get there? We saw a hint of the unity that can deliver the goods in the massive climate march in NYC in the fall of 2014. The composition of that march showed a deeper recognition by its many component parts or movements. We are in this together. That level of unity has to be reflected in all issues. When the Black Lives Matter gatherings occur, all components of the alliance must be there. When labor fights for the $15 minimum wage, all allies must be there. Immigrant rights must be fought for with recognition of its general humanity. In particular, the environmental movement needs to be a consistent participant.

Now we need your thoughts, ideas, and solutions. Show what’s right or wrong with the above. Start where you wish. Let the discussion flow.