It was not a senseless act…

…nor the result of personal psychopathy, individual insanity, or whatever we may wish to attribute to the murderer in South Carolina last week. Isolating him as an alienated, senseless person is to ignore the powerful culture in which he swam and out of which he made scary sense.

What should unsettle us is not the possibility of his craziness but the reality of his complete sanity within a society that still breeds his type of hate, that carries it in its DNA (as Barack Obama reminds us in his interview with Marc Maron). His worldview was like any other person’s worldview: a reasonable way of seeing, living, and relating, because it was the way he was taught to see, live, and relate. Not only was it normal to him, it was normative. It was the world as it was and as it ought to be.

The more we pretend that the racist worldview underlying his beliefs and actions doesn’t exist, the more we’ll be prone to his type unleashing hell on a nation explicitly convinced it’s in heaven. Waking up won’t happen with a symbolic victory over a flag; it’s a pleasant step, but a cheap catharsis if that’s where we stop, or if we suddenly sleep well at night again.

No one should be able to dream until we all can.

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