I stumbled upon this fine exposé by David Nir of the Daily Kos which delves deep into the white supremacist psyche of Charleston Massacre shooter Dylann Roof. It reveals not only Roof’s hatred of blacks and other ethnic minorities, but also his disturbingly confused attitude towards Jews.
Although I won’t cite the text and quotations here (they’re very offensive), I strongly urge everyone to read the article for yourself. Keep in mind that the racist views of Roof are not limited to the lunatic fringe of right-wing extremism, and that they are indicative of a far more extensive problem in America regarding racial attitudes.
Despite the conservative media narrative that racism against minorities is a thing of the past, race, racism, and inherent biases on all sides are a part of what’s happening in Ferguson and communities across America — as are systemic and institutional factors spanning several generations, from the Watts riots in 1965 to the riots in various cities in 1967 and ’68, to Los Angeles in 1992. While an inciting incident — usually involving the police and communities of color — sparked the violence, a tinderbox of underlying frustrations awaited that spark.
After each of these incidents, reports issued by government commissions seeking answers cited hauntingly identical findings. Police brutality, poor relations between the police and the community, a sense of hopelessness fueled by a lack of jobs, economic inequality, inadequate schools, discriminatory housing practices, an unresponsive political system many felt shut out of, along with policies that created segregated neighborhoods which further isolate communities of color were highlighted again and again. Again and again the recommendations included expanding community policing strategies and social programs, making them more consistent with the extent of the problems.
I’ve developed a recent interest in Roman History- from Romulus & Remus through the Republic to Empire to Fall. Aside from being an interesting time in history in of itself – of which I knew, sadly, too little – I believe there are lessons to take away from the past failings of a giant society. So while on vacation I decided to read a book called “Are We Rome” by Cullen Murphy. While by now some of its contemporary examples are a bit dated (it was published in 2008), I believe Murphy provides very good overviews of both some leading hypotheses on the causes of Rome’s fall as well as challenges facing America today.
Needless to say, this sort of historical comparison invites sensationalism. I found Murphy’s approach, however, to be even handed, and I felt that he tries to objectively evaluate both similarities and differences between modern day America and the Roman Empire. The takeaway is, essentially: there is quite a bit that distinguishes us from the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD, before its fall. However, there is enough in common that should, if not concern us, then at least catch our attention.