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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Facing America’s Great Evils

Facing America’s Great Evils

By Robert Parry
June 24, 2015

The latest gun massacre – this time at a historic black church in
Charleston, South Carolina and apparently driven by racial hatred
reminds Americans how we all live at the forbearance of the next
nut with easy access to weapons that can efficiently kill us, our
neighbors or our children.

Yet, we remain politically powerless to take even the smallest
step to stop this madness.

We also remain in political denial about one of America’s original
sins, the cruel enslavement of blacks for the first quarter
millennium of white settlement of this continent, followed by
another century of brutal racial segregation, the residues of which
we refuse to scrub from the corners of our national behavior –
fearing that doing so will get some pro-Confederate white people

In Arlington, Virginia, where I live, the political leadership can’t
even find the will or courage to remove the name of Confederate
President Jefferson Davis from state roads that skirt Arlington
Cemetery, which was founded to bury Union soldiers, and that pass
near historic black neighborhoods in South Arlington, sending them
an enduring message of who’s boss.

Davis’s name was added to Southern sections of Route 1 in 1920
at the height of the Ku Klux Klan’s power and amid an upsurge
in lynchings – and to Route 110 near the Pentagon in 1964 as a
counterpoint to the Civil Rights Act.

Besides leading the secessionist slave states in rebellion, Davis
signed an order authorizing the execution of captured black soldiers
fighting for the Union, a practice that was employed in several
battles near the end of the Civil War.

Some of the victims of Davis’s order were even trained at Camp
Casey in what is now Arlington County before those U.S. Colored
Troops marched south to engage General Robert E. Lee’s army
around the Confederate capital of Richmond.

I’ve often wondered what message Arlington County and
the state of Virginia think they’re sending by honoring Davis.

Are they saying that it’s all right to murder and subjugate
black people?

The Charleston Murders

Of course, South Carolina, the heart of the South’s slave system and
the instigator of the war to defend slavery, has its own messages
conveyed to its youth, including its proud display of the
Confederate battle flag and its endless promotion of “the boys in
gray,” including dressing up tour guides in Confederate uniforms for
visitors to Charleston.

Some of those messages appear to have sunk in for Dylann Roof,
a 21-year-old white supremacist who is charged with entering a
Bible study class at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
on Wednesday night, sitting with the black parishioners for an
hour and then executing nine of them with a .45-caliber pistol
before uttering a racial epithet as he left.

The New York Times reported that, according to friends, Roof
“voiced virulently racist views and had talked recently about
starting a new civil war — even about shooting black people.

Photographs of him wearing patches with the flags of the former
white supremacist governments of South Africa and Rhodesia,
and leaning against a car with Confederate States of America
on its license plate, drew millions of views online.”

Yet, besides the usual handwringing that follows one of these
gun tragedies, there is little sign that anything of substance
will change, either in making firearms less promiscuously
available to pretty much anyone who wants them or in
addressing the legacy of slavery, the ensuing century of
terror that enforced racial segregation, or the more recent
experience of police violence directed disproportionately at

What Came Be Done?

While the idea of reparations for slavery sends many American
whites through the roof in fury, there are substantive actions that
government and private industry could undertake, including major
investments in the infrastructure of predominantly black or brown
communities, to make these neighborhoods more inviting areas to
live and invest.

Instead, the opposite generally occurs.

Though the current Tea Party dominance of the Republican
Party makes any government spending on anything – including
maintenance of existing transportation services – almost impossible,
what spending that does get approved goes mostly to white areas,
using public funds to widen, not narrow, economic disparities.

In Arlington County, for instance, billions of dollars in public
money have been invested in two underground Metro lines
(Orange and Silver) through overwhelmingly white North
Arlington, while a far more modest above-ground Streetcar
for racially diverse South Arlington was terminated by large
majorities of voters in North Arlington.

The racial mix of Arlington’s schools have also shifted back toward
the days of segregation with some North Arlington schools nearly all
white – and the County lacking the political will to reverse these

It’s true that the problems of a wealthy county like Arlington
representing the original land of the 100-square-mile District
of Columbia that spilled over the Potomac River and was later
ceded back to Virginia – pale by comparison to conditions in
other urban areas, such as Baltimore or Charleston where racial
and police violence has recently flared.

But the point is that racial and ethnic discrimination remains
part of the American way, in big ways and small.

For that to change, there would have to be a transformation
of the American spirit, a recognition that past injustices must
not be forgotten or even just lamented but rather must become
an inspiration for remedial action.

Then, these disgraceful gun tragedies and our long history of
racial violence would not just be a source of frustration and
a sign of impotence, but a motivation for a national rebirth
that addresses past wrongs and lifts up the nation as a whole.

Robert Parry is a Investigative Reporter and he broke many of
the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek
in the 1980s.

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