Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr, Myra Thompson. Victims of a terror attack while praying at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. Peace to them & their families.
Six black women & three black men are murdered in the traditional American style (premeditatedly, by a racist white man who targeted them at their most vulnerable) & in his response US President Barack Obama says "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."
I wonder at what vague point in the future such a reckoning will take place, because the man who made this statement oversees (I do not use the verb accidentally) a kill list from which, every Tuesday, he & a few other men choose which extrajudicial mass murders to commit in what I suppose he believes are "non-advanced" countries. Weddings, funerals, search parties. Places of worship. Torture chambers (literally, torture chambers). Thousands of people. Hundreds of them children. (To say nothing of the brutal injuries, the deaths by grief, the conventional murders through the regular prosecution of wars, the deaths, years on, attributable to landscapes made toxic & food systems burned to ash.)
Here in the "advanced" United States, there have only been a few days this year on which police in the United States did not kill someone in their soulless work of protecting private property & serving the interests of capital. Police in the United States kill a black person every 28 hours. They killed 400 people in the first five months of this year. While cops might not commonly murder people in church, they do break into homes at night & murder black children (like Aiyana Stanley Jones & Ramarley Graham), the elderly (like Kenneth Chamberlin Sr & Kathryn Johnston), & everyone in between. But this is not the mass violence with which Barack Obama wishes to reckon. The daily killings of black people by police, their proxies, & their copycats somehow do not register as mass murder, any more than do the far away drone strikes on residents of "non-advanced" countries.
At some point we will have to reckon. But not now. No. Much as the racist flag of the Confederacy flies over the state house in South Carolina (where Dylann Roof carried out his terrorist act on Wednesday), weaponized remote-controlled aircraft emblazoned with the American flag fly over any non-advanced country in the world where the US President chooses to kill somebody. American cash & weapons flow freely to state & non-state regimes that engage in mass murder, kidnapping, torture, & rape. At some point we will have to reckon with mass violence, says its perpetrator-in-chief. By reckoning with it, he no doubt means sweep it under the rug. And thus do violence as well to language: no reckoning will take place.
The actual reckoning that we need to have is with these basic facts: that the United States was built on theft & violence. The theft of indigenous land & the theft of African labor. The de facto state-protected right of men to rape women both enslaved & "free." The attempted genocide of indigenous tribe after indigenous tribe, their forced expulsion from ancestral lands. Medical experimentation & forced sterilization. The criminalization of race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality. The incarceration of ever-increasing & historically unheard of populations of adults & children. Their forced labor. The state-sponsored kidnapping & murder of the politically inconvenient.
And the narrow exemption from all of this horror: white supremacist patriarchy.
So integral was this theft & violence to the creation of the United States that it has remained structural; theft, violence, & incarceration are definitional to the nation. You cannot have a "United States of America" absent this theft & violence. No one would recognize it.
Theft & violence. Not liberty. Not democracy. Not equality. Not justice. Not its diversity. Not its occupied landscapes. Not apple pie. The United States is its theft & violence. That's what its flag represents. That's what its political offices represent. That's certainly what its military & police represent. (And cultural manifestations like jazz & blues & hip hop - created by black people whose stolen labor built the country - are crowning achievements in the movement to liberate from, not assimilate into, a culture so irredeemably bonded to mass theft & genocidal violence.
It comes to this: we can bring an end to continued mass murders, forced labor, & the farce of civil rights applied selectively & at whim. Or we can have the United States of America. But we can't have both. And given this understanding, let those who would cast their lot with the persistence of the former reckon with the inherent evil of their allegiance to the latter.