Mississippi Burning

Well, it’s not Mississippi, and even if it were, it wouldn’t just be Mississippi.

Predominately black churches in the south have suffered a string of fires since the fatal shooting in Charleston, some of which were ruled as arson, while others are still investigated. Given the backlash against the confederate flag, I doubt most of those incidents were accidents. “Hate crime” hasn’t been used yet, but who are we kidding?

It’s insane to me that people would still do that in 2015. So naturally my gut reaction was: what the f*** is wrong with these people?

And then I actually wondered.

Racism is going to linger in the south for a long time, and it’s been there from the start.

But who are the people committing these heinous crimes?

Dixie is ridden with white rural communities who live in as much poverty as black communities (often pretty close to each other) and have since time immemorial. They are pejoratively called “white trash”, but it’s also the history of poverty of people who were barely better off than slaves, except for the obvious fact of their freedom (excluding indentured servitude), who had little else to beat on than slaves, and later free blacks.

Some will say that’s exactly how The Man keeps poor people at each other’s throat. Quite possibly. At any rate, disenfranchised communities often express their frustration against their own neighborhoods, or against other disenfranchised communities, sometimes because they compete, and sometimes just because you want someone with even les agency than you have, to beat on.

It’s obvious that racism is at the core of how the United States of America and practically the entire western hemisphere were founded, there’s an undeniable cultural legacy, but my question is, without condoning any of these atrocious acts against the African-American community:

How many of these people are whites who’ve been left behind? Who were left out when the economy grew, largely because they were always left out, and considered themselves left out of social programs targeted at correcting institutional discrimination (Affirmative Action has often been misconstrued and labeled as exclusively and unfairly as hand outs for black people), and who, looking at their black neighbors, who haven’t changed much either because they were left behind too, went from a cliché of ignorant racial hatred, to (murderous) hatred out of (misplaced) envy?

I remember reading about how two Papua New Guinean tribes who lived a couple of miles from each other, but never met over a 60 year old blood feud involving someone’s great grand father, consider each other as belligerent, cowardly, untrustworthy, and sorcerers etc. Sounds a lot like racism to me, considering that they would both look equally foreign to outsiders. Hell, that’s what Springfield thinks of Shelbyville, and vice versa.

My point is: you’re not going to cure racism, or broadly speaking bigotry. Someone is always going to be too something for someone, but I find people get along better when everybody’s getting on well.

Rather than ask for reparations, isn’t it time to seriously look at poverty in America and give people another outlook on the world and themselves instead of looking for someone to take their anger out on? To stick it to The Man, as it were? Be it reform or revolution?

Just asking.

Some will argue that in a country where there’s as many guns as there are people and so many people feel entitled to using them for reasons as absurd as the lack of bacon in a bacon cheeseburger (which is a crime, agreed, but not worth shooting anything over), some will argue that unbelievably horrible and unequivocally stupid things are going to happen for a while. They are entirely correct. But while there will always be angry, violent and plain hateful people, there’s a lot that can be done to address why people are angry, violent and hateful.

In the meantime stop burning black churches and shooting black people. What is wrong with you?

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.