Yesterday, in the midst of all the church services and speeches and emotional turmoil welling up in Charleston, South Carolina, protesters defaced a statue in White Point Gardens. The iconic piece, dedicated to the Confederate soldiers from the state, was spray painted with various messages including the now seemingly ubiquitous “Black Lives Matter.” (Or that seems to be the intent, anyway. It actually says, “Black Lives Mater.”
A statue near The Battery memorializing Confederate defenders of the city was found vandalized Sunday with the message “Black lives matter.”
Another message, “This is the problem #racist,” also was spray-painted on “To the Confederate Defenders of Charleston — Fort Sumter.”
The monument was placed at the site by The United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The damage was reported to police dispatchers just after 12:30 p.m. The statue was covered up by residents who wrapped a large tarp around it about 1:30 p.m.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
At this point, even knowing the howls of outrage which result from the simple act of asking a question these days, there is one thing I would like to find out from the vandals who did this: what exactly is it that you are protesting this week?
Trust me, I’ve seen all of the #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place across the country. I follow the news. In the majority of them the subject of discussion centers on deadly incidents between (usually white) police officers and (almost always black) suspects. And at least in purely philosophical terms, I get it. That’s not to say that I agree with you on the details, as we’ve wound up discussing here far too often in the past. I don’t agree that that “police in general” are racists and trying to eradicate the black community. But I understand that you do, and given the nature of the discussions which take place, I can at least wrap my head around why you are protesting and flying the #BlackLivesMatter banners.
But what’s going on in Charleston which sees you not only trotting out the same slogan, but defacing this monument? The issue at hand is Dylann Roof. I think, by this point, we’ve pretty much all agreed that he’s not only a hateful, murderous beast, but a seriously hard core racist as well. But as soon as the news broke last week the police were out there combing the neighborhood. They chased down every lead and one of those tips led to Roof’s arrest. He is now cooling his heels in jail and people all the way up to the governor are calling for him to receive the death penalty for these heinous crimes. We got the guy and did so in nearly record time.
So I ask you again… what exactly are you protesting?
Is there some indication that the police (who risked their lives to bring him back in shackles) or your elected government representatives aren’t taking this seriously? Have any of them given some indication that the lives of those nine black worshipers didn’t matter? At this point I’m getting the impression that you are claiming that Roof is a symptom of something deeper. Perhaps you are claiming that he’s only one member of some vast army of hate filled, white race warriors who are planning executions. But if it comes as any consolation to you, the best argument to soothe your concerns comes from Roof himself in his alleged manifesto. (Emphasis added)
“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” he wrote. “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Much has been made of Roof’s hateful diatribes, and rightly so. But the section above seems to be conveniently overlooked in all of this analysis. Why did Roof go into that church and start shooting unarmed, innocent black people at a moment when they were at their most peaceful and defenseless? At least in part because he couldn’t find anyone else to join him in his race war. If there were active cells of racism terrorists (or whatever phrase we’re supposed to be using in this case… I can’t keep track of them all) waiting to leap into action all over the South, I doubt Roof would have had any trouble being accepted into their ranks.
This vandalism of a more than 80 year old statue honoring not slavery, but the lost lives of family members in a long ago war, makes no sense. (And I won’t drag out this column even further by bringing up the subject of how the Civil War was about much more than slavery yet again.) Every action which has taken place since the shooting has demonstrated that those black lives mattered very much to the police and the government. And now you’ve managed to take a moment when the entire population of the city – across all racial lines – was coming together and draw another line of division between you.