Recently, right in the middle of their coverage of the Charleston, S.C. mass murders, NBC’s “Meet The Press” excitedly aired a segment deemed a “remarkable” look at American gun violence from “the perspective of the person pointing the gun.” They then proceeded to play videos of several convicted Black gun murderers in New York’s Sing Sing prison, sharing their feelings and stories about guns. This outrageous juxtaposition–parading images of convicted Black male murderers in connection with coverage of Dylann Roof’s racist act of terror–clearly revealed not just an effort to deflect attention from the real issue, but exposed the racism itself that underlies the ongoing effort in the media and among politicians, including President Obama, to make the incident in Charleston, SC seem relevant to a discussion on gun control.
Last Friday, President Obama was direct in his effort to shift people’s mindset to the issue of gun control, saying, “You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, on this kind of frequency in any other advanced nation on Earth. Every country has violent, hateful or mentally unstable people,” but they don’t have the kind of easy access to guns that we have here. While his statements may not have been as blatant as the way ”Meet The Press” flashed images of convicted Black murderers, the President’s not-so-subtle underlying message is clear: if young Black men are disproportionately committing more crimes of gun violence, then one might reasonably infer that Black men are more likely to be the violent, hateful and unstable people to whom the President is referring. That is a cornerstone of American racism: the idea that Black people are these unusually violent and hateful people that must be controlled.
In the wake of the Charleston, SC murders, rather than talking about gun control, we should be talking about racism and White America’s staunch unwillingness to meaningfully address the widespread prevalence of racism in our society, in all of its forms. We must look honestly at how institutionalized racism is pervasive within our society and government, impacting the criminal justice system, education, housing, finance, politics, jobs and more. The brutality of Dylann Roof’s church murders is no more shocking than the brutal deaths and deeply-rooted racism that was widely exposed in the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. The question is whether White people are truly ready to wholeheartedly accept and acknowledge this and try to have a more honest discussion on the racism that plagues our society and so many people living in the United States.
Originally written for Dave Mays’ Blog, Hip Hop & Race In America
About Dave Mays: David Mays is the founder of The Source Magazine and Hip Hop Weekly. Mays started The Source in 1988 as a single sheet newsletter while a Harvard undergraduate. It soon became a national magazine. Mays a stable of media companies around the Source brand, including a record label, mobile content downloads and a clothing line. They produced a talk show, a talent showcase and several seasons of The Source Hip-Hop Music Awards, some of the highest rated TV specials for a hip-hop audience ever. Details named Mays one of the 50 most influential men under 37 in its October 2002 issue. In January 2007, Mays and Raymond Scott founded Hip Hop Weekly.