The attack in Charleston was racist fueled terrorism. It was a terrorist attack, carried out by a white person who believed that black people were ruining his country. We can’t make excuses for this. Our nation is not post-racial, it’s still divided by hate and unfounded fear of people who are different, and tragically innocent people like these churchgoers are paying the price for the hatred and stigma of others.
And it’s not just people of color who suffer from this national divide and ingrained hatred of those who are different… other groups face similar violence daily in the U.S. by people with the same kind of attitude.
You know what really stopped me in my tracks when reading about this incident? The shooter blamed black people for the problems in this nation. He basically said black people were destroying America. In his words: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country — and you have to go.”
After I became an atheist, I had strikingly similar sentiments directed towards me. “Atheists are ruining our country! Atheists should leave America! Atheists are evil and immoral and will ruin everything!” Over and over and over and over again, like a broken record that I can’t shut off. Even from people I care about, this stigma of “atheists ruining our nation” was and is continually perpetuated and thrown in my face. This hateful and erroneous belief is even taught in churches. Atheists are the enemy, “we must convert them or fight their evil influence and take back our nation!” and so on. And an even worse attitude is levied against the LGBTQA community, which I am a part of too, so now I get a double serving of the “you’re ruining our nation!” stigma.
So what happens when they teach these ideas to someone who’s prone to violence?
WHEN YOU TEACH AND PROMOTE LIES ABOUT ENTIRE GROUPS OF PEOPLE, WHEN YOU ENCOURAGE HATE AND FEAR, VIOLENCE AGAINST THE STIGMATIZED GROUP IS USUALLY THE RESULT.
Yeah, I’m text-yelling. I’m yelling because your words have power, and when you say untrue and horrible things about black people or LGBTQA people or atheists or any other stigmatized groups, then YOU are contributing to a culture that is divided against itself, that fosters domestic terrorism against its own citizens on a regular basis. Yeah, you have freedom of speech, you can say what you want. But your freedom may be literally costing people their lives because not everyone has the restraint against violence that you do. They hear your rants about certain people ruining your country, and they jump to the next logical conclusion: The people ruining their country have to be destroyed to restore order and balance.
So stop it. Stop perpetuating racism and hatred and misunderstanding of LGBTQA people, atheists, Muslim Americans, and anyone else who dares to not be a white heterosexual cisgender Christian. STOP. If you don’t, then start blaming yourself for these acts of violence committed against them because you’re partly responsible for it.
NO ONE deserves to be attacked or marginalized for who they are or what they believe. No one deserves to live in a nation where other citizens regularly put them down and enact violence against them just because they’re different. I am opposed to terrorism in all its forms- at home and abroad. It just makes me mad to see so many Americans talk about ISIS and then ignore or explain away terrorist acts right in their own backyard. Terrorism isn’t terrorism because someone with a turban does it… terrorism takes many forms, and it happens here among us, by us.