IS it really possible that the country that has twice voted for a Black President – in the person of Barack Obama – can still harbour in its ranks, White people who are so ravaged by hatred for Black people that they can walk into a church, sit quietly with the congregation for an hour, and then shoot nine of them dead – in cold blood?
It is precisely such a thing that happened in Charleston, South Carolina, on 17 June 2015, when a 21-year-old Whiteman called Dylann Roof, committed an act of murder so wanton in nature that neither America nor the world can quite get its head round it.
A photograph posted on a website with a racist manifesto showed Roof brandishing a “Confederate Flag” that US racists have adopted as a banner for their wish for the “resumption” of the American Civil War, in which the country’s “South” fought against the “North” over whether the horrendous system of enslaving Black people should be allowed to continue.
For Black people, the “Confederate Flag” conjures up ghastly images of lynchings and other inhuman practices that were part and parcel of slavery.
But despite the fact that the US Constitution says that “All men are created equal”, White American politicians are so pusillanimous that they have allowed some Southern states to fly the ignominious flag over public buildings.
Although the brutal nature of Roof’s crime is acknowledged by the US media, reaction to the crime has shown once again that American society is ridden to the hilt with hypocrisy over race issues.
For instance, whilst telecasting a discussion of the murder on Meet The Press on 21 June 2015, NBC TV managed to insert a clip in which a Blackman who was in prison for murder tearfully confessed his regret at having pulled a trigger to take the life of a fellow human being.
Now, what was the relevance of that to a heinous mowing down of nine Black people by a Whiteman?
It was as if they were standing the story on its head and blaming Black murderers for what had happened at Charleston! Are NBC TV producers so asinine and insensitive that they couldn’t see the insulting fallacy in what they were doing? It was as if Marshall MacLuhan (“The Medium Is The Message”) had never existed, and that if you are talking about guns and murder, any clip would do!
Now, NBC TV is one of the most respected national networks in the US. So if they behaved in this way, just imagine what the lunatic-fringe networks (such as Fox) would have been doing with the story.
Even worse, the Director of the FBI, James Comey managed to to specify, publicly, that Roof’s crime was not what the Bureau would classify as “terrorism” or a “terrorist act”. At a press conference in Baltimore on 20th June 2015, Comey said the FBI was currently investigating whether or not Roof committed a “hate crime”, but not “terrorism.”
“Terrorism”, according to Comey, “ is [an] act of violence done or threatens to (sic) in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry, so it’s more of a political act and again, based on what I know, so more (sic) I don’t see it as a political act.”
I beg Comey’s pardon, if a guy who brandishes the “Confederate Flag” and espouses a racist manifesto is not carrying out a “political act”, then what is a “political act”? I am afraid Comey’s comment would have played into the way America’s power structure routinely characterises racist crimes.
If Roof had been a Muslim who posted pictures of himself wielding an al-Qaeda flag on a website, the FBI would have been on him before he could shoot anyone.
The FBI might even have set him up for arrest and prosecution by mounting a “sting operation” on him (as it has done with several other Muslim “terrorist suspects” in the past.)
But racist violence? That’s low down the priorities of the FBI, hence the pervasive continuation of White police “turkey shoots” of Black people, that have become the “new normal”.
These crimes have hitherto not merited the full intervention of the FBI as a national emergency that must be ruthlessly uprooted at the Federal level. Indeed, White police murderers of Blacks know that White Attorneys in many States would not prosecute them vigorously, or even if they did, that few juries and judges would find them guilty of the most serious crime with which they could be charged – first-degree murder.
Although President Obama displayed the right body language, and also said the right things about the Charleston murders, he did not wear a black tie when he made a TV appearance to comment on the murders. Was it because he wants to keep affirming the notion that he is a “race-less” President?
I was also appalled by the way the media extracted from the relatives of the dead, who were still in shock over losing their beloved ones, statements that they “forgave” Roof for his hideous crime. Pour encourager les autres? A French speaker might ask (meaning: to encourage others to do the same thing?).
Another thing – and this which goes back to the point I made earlier about the NBC TV clip about shootings in general – discussion of crimes like that at Charleston must differentiate the issue from the general debate about gun control, lest such crimes become accepted as an immutable aspect of American “culture”.
The difference is that many of the Blacks who are killed by policemen are the victims of racists who are – anyhow – legitimately permitted to wear guns as part of their job of protecting the public, but who abuse that legitimacy to carry out turkey shoots of Black people.
To equate the gratuitous murder of Blacks by such racist White policemen with those of ordinary murderers – both black and white – who are able to lay hands on guns easily because of lax gun laws, is to enforce, a priori, a legal sleight of hand exonerates the murderous policemen in advance.
All citizens, alike, look to these policemen for protection, by dint of the fact that the law enforcement officers are paid with everyone’s taxes. And such an exoneration in advance puts Black people’s lives at risk every second of every day. That’s why the two issues must be separated and not conflated in such a facile manner.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
The way in which the authorities of the Accra Metropolitan City Council, backed by the Central Government, have treated the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra, is a little high-handed.
For what they have clearly done is to capitalise on the revulsion felt by the public against those whose thoughtless acts of clogging and silting up gutters caused such a tragic loss of life in the recent floods.
Now, no-one will dispute the fact that some of the slum-dwellers had erected both homes and commercial kiosks in waterways, and had thus contributed to the flooding of the area. But was it every structure in the vicinity that stood in the way of flowing water and, therefore, deserved to be pulled down?
What a Government ought to have done would have been to get town engineers to demarcate the areas that specifically contribute to flooding, find accommodation for the inhabitants, and move them there before sending the bulldozers in. As it is – and remember we are in the rainy season – where are the homeless to go?
Of course, we all know that our Government is broke and, moreover, has borrowed money up to its neck. So carrying out any meaningful resettlement would be difficult for it to do – , even if it wanted to. But if it had drawn up practical plans and tried to sell them to the people, some of the slum-dwellers would have co-operated with the plans.
You see, the demonstration effect of giving modern one or two-room houses to people who live in shacks cannot be over-emphasised. We have the evidence before our very eyes: in Accra, the old “estate houses” at Labadi, Osu, Kaneshie and elsewhere were all meant to prevent the growth of slums in the metropolis.
Tema, Kumasi and Takoradi also had their share. The work of the colonialists was embraced and expanded by the State Housing Corporation.
Mr John Dramani Mahama would do well to remember that his father belonged to a Convention People’s Party (CPP) Government which sometimes exhibited humanitarian concerns for the welfare of the people.
For example, when it realised in advance that the Akosombo Dam would cause massive flooding and create “the largest man-made lake in the world”, it planned new townships for the people who would be displaced.
Of course, not everyone liked the houses given to them (mainly because they were not based on our traditional concept of “the compound house” but on modern idea of one/two-bedroom houses.