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Charleston shooting: A painful reminder
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 21 - 06 - 2015

In his tribute to the four young black girls killed in the bombing by white supremacists of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed the hope that this tragedy would “transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future.”
The shooting in Charleston on Wednesday night at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a painful reminder that the “dark past” still haunts the American society. The attack claimed the lives of six women and three men, all black. Charleston authorities have opened a hate crime investigation into the killings. A white youth, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, has been arrested in this connection.
Media reports quote a friend as saying that Roof used to complain that black people are “taking over the world” and that someone has to do something about it for the sake of “the white race.”
South Carolina's politicians are at pains to label the Charleston shooting the work of “one sick individual”, not a reminder of the region's past. Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. has no doubt at all that this is an act of just “one hateful person.”
The sad fact is that even if Roof acted on his own, each new well-publicized account of violence against blacks goes to prove that racial hatred and notions of white supremacy continue to pervade some elements in American society.
Blacks are not the only victims. Only last month, a group of armed protestors organized an anti-Muslim rally outside a mosque in Phoenix, Arizona. There have been countless acts of vandalism directed against Muslims. The number of hate crimes against members of the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities has dramatically increased. Such crimes range from petty vandalism to outright murder.
A 46-year-old white man, Craig Stephen Hicks, is on trial for three counts of murder in the shooting of three Muslims — a husband, wife and her sister - at Chapel Hill near the University of North Carolina in February this year. The killings were quickly condemned as hate crimes by the victim's family and some Muslim groups, but the police insisted the shooting followed Hicks' parking-related argument with his neighbor.
Mercifully, the police admitted the shooting in Charleston was a hate crime. But simultaneously there have been attempts by some sections of the media and public to characterize the whole incident as the inevitable consequence of widespread gun ownership in US. This will be diverting attention from a deep malaise afflicting the American society, although what makes racism so lethal is the ease with which Americans can acquire guns.
Some people, especially blacks, blame President Barack Obama for not doing enough to prevent racially motivated violence. They dismiss all talk of a postracial era because of the election of a black president.This is unfair to Obama and America's white society. We should acknowledge the radical changes America has undergone since a black woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to obey a bus driver's order to give up her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama on Dec. 1, 1955. Now a black family is residing in the White House.
We should also not forget that in 1963 whites opposed to civil rights supported the Birmingham bombers while this week's shootings drew condemnation by whites and blacks alike.


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