Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Not Only The Flag

Just about everyone's talking and writing about the recent South Carolina church racial shooting where nine people were killed. Media commentators are examining and analyzing the shooter's motives. Was the Confederate flag responsible? Was it a white supremacist act? Was it extreme racism? Could it have been an anti-Christian protest? Or, was the shooter just plain "crazy?" The only thing we know for sure is that he's not a terrorist—however that is defined these days.

What seems not to concern the talking heads is the overriding principle that allows these "crazies" to hide in plain sight as ordinary citizens. It's only when they erupt with a heinous act that creates the headlines dominating the news that we take notice

Racism is disguised and made acceptable in many ways, not just with the Confederate Battle flag display. We have been allowing bigotry to hide under the cover of that "revered" symbol for some time. Discrimination is disguised as "Southern Pride," or understood to be "honoring one's ancestors." It becomes quite easy for people like the Charleston Emanuel AME Church shooter to go unnoticed because his behavior was perceived as normal. There are other symbols and slogans under the big top of bigotry such as "tough on crime" and mandatory sentencing, Tea Party politics, the war on welfare, etc., which help racists hide their discrimination against the ghettoized poor. Whenever commentators, and the public, rush to defend police after they've killed an unarmed Black man, they're most often feigning support for these "public servants who have a very tough job" in order to hide their racist feelings. They say that people (meaning Black folk) should just obey the commands the police give them, and they won't get hurt. To these racist sympathizers, the victim is usually to blame. 

There is a certain psychosis involved with people who translate their extreme racist thoughts into action and it is called Impulse Control Disorder (ICD). A psychosis refers to an abnormal condition of the mind involving "loss of contact with reality." Racists seek reinforcement for their extreme views in the right-wing media and by associating with like-minded groups such as white supremacists. They feed on a daily dose of sound bites that reaffirm their racism until they reach a tipping point—and then they explode with rage. Ultimately they cannot control the impulse to do something about their pent up anger. The same psychosis is at work with police when they explode in anger at the sight of a Black man, even though it has been shown they would act much differently with a white person in the identical circumstance.

ICD is far more common than one might imagine. And like most maladies, it is exhibited in many ways and to varying degrees. Among those with this deficit are shoplifters, compulsive gamblers, and people who have occasional bouts of explosive anger. But, the common denominator with entrenched racists is the need for reinforcement of their views. And, unfortunately, there is no shortage of such stimuli from available sources. Right-wing radio personalities, TV "news" commentators, and racist web sites supply a steady diet of not so subtle supporting commentary. There are also many purveyors of symbols such as flags, arm bands, posters and clothing with slogans or images that are meant to inflame opinions.

When such a person goes over the edge and shoots up a church, the people who aided and abetted the perpetrator run for cover. Their indoctrination and support could not have possibly influenced a "deranged person," they say. But in fact they are culpable and it is quite possible that without such stimulation the racist would never have reached his tipping point. But, this isn't a subject that interests our talking heads. After all, we live in a free society and revere the notion of "free speech."

So, it's not just a flag that's the problem. It's the hearts and minds of a significant portion of our population that needs to be repaired.