There’s No Such Thing As Senseless Violence: Misogyny, Racism, and Anti-Semitism. Say the Words.

by Day Al-Mohamed By | October 31, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On October 24, a 51-year-old white man drove to a Kroger in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, where he shot and killed two black people he did not know: Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones. After the shooting, he reportedly told a white bystander, “Whites don’t kill whites.”

On October 27, a 46-year-old white man opened fire Saturday morning at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he shot and killed eleven members of the congregation. In his affidavit he said, “I just want to kill Jews.”

I am angry. Once again we see a slew of deaths and the politicians and media wring their hands and call it “senseless violence.” How. Fucking. Dare. You! Senseless makes it sound like it is something unpredictable or incomprehensible. They say, “It’s about violence. It’s about guns. It’s about mental illness.” These acts are not senseless at all. These are acts of hate. It is misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism at work. Use those words! Because the deafening silence is killing people.

“But it isn’t senseless violence. It is thoughtful, it is pervasive, and American history is poisoned with it.”

From Reverend Dr. William Barber, “I’m reminded of what Dr. King said after four little girls were murdered in an Alabama church: ‘we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.’”

If we treat these acts of hate (because that is what they are) as mere “gun violence” or a simple “crime” we do nothing to prevent future incidents. We must address the underlying problem. We are a society; the culture of our society shapes all of its people. And in a culture where we see our fellows as “lesser”—as less deserving of rights, as monsters who are orchestrating our downfall, as causes of our own pain and fear—then it is only a matter of time before someone lashes out at the imagined perpetrators, committing a final act of hatred and self-preservation. There will be blood and violence and all the politicians will do is wring their hands, offer thoughts and prayers, and decry “senseless gun violence.” But it isn’t senseless violence. It is thoughtful, it is pervasive, and American history is poisoned with it. Ask African Americans. Ask Jews. Ask immigrants seeking asylum. Ask the trans community. Ask Christine Blasey Ford—who is still receiving death threats because she dared to speak up and who will probably suffer infamy and ridicule for her words (not unlike Anita Hill) for the rest of her life.

How many politicians talked about the recent violence but never acknowledged the underlying racism or anti-Semitism over the last few days?”

The governmental and leadership response is “hire armed guards” or “carry weapons” or “be more vigilant”; “lock away the mentally ill”. This is victim blaming. It is not any different than, “she shouldn’t have been walking out late at night”, “she shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt.” The words are callous and cruel and spoken in the voice of a coward. This doesn’t examine the root cause. It doesn’t come close.

The “arms race” in our domestic environment keeps being promoted as a way of protecting and keeping people safe. It just means someone is going to die. A gunman walks into a location and opens fire, someone will die. If there are armed guards, then maybe fewer people will die, but someone will always die. Even if it is just the shooter.

We have to be willing to start at the beginning. We have to ask the hard questions. And this is where the political bullshit is so much more visible. How many politicians talked about the recent violence but never acknowledged the underlying racism or anti-Semitism over the last few days? How many decried the polarization of the country and called for civility and respect and a coming together, but have not talked about any specific actions they will take to ensure the deaths stop?

“Civility isn’t the answer. Civility is silencing the waters of discontent. It is being forced to swallow your anger and your pain and your grief. Civility by its nature is performative.”

Civility isn’t the answer. Civility is silencing the waters of discontent. It is being forced to swallow your anger and your pain and your grief. Civility by its nature is performative. Civility isn’t being honest and upfront. By design, civility gives power to those already in the system, who already have the control. It aids the oppressor, never the oppressed. For civility to work, there must be mutual respect. You cannot negotiate with those who don’t respect you, who don’t want to listen to you, and who want you dead. Civility is a demand made by the complicit.

This isn’t about “listening to both sides.” When we give platforms to hate, it isn’t “freedom of speech”. This isn’t mom and apple pie. This is about people whose message is hate; whose words warp our culture and our society. We cannot close our eyes to misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and all the other –isms. The Nationalist perspective being espoused is one that does not recognize the strength in our country; a strength that comes from the diversity that built it.

Our members of Congress are supposed to represent us. Our leadership is supposed to lead. So call them up. Call them out.”

Our members of Congress are supposed to represent us. Our leadership is supposed to lead. So call them up. Call them out. Ask them, “What actions are you taking to address the rising hate behind these shootings?” And don’t take the easy answer. Don’t accept the “senseless violence”, “gun crimes”, and “lone wolf” excuses.

So I am fucking done with thoughts and prayers and promises and civility. Give me real action that takes into account the rising tides of misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism. To stop the deaths we have to face the hate that lives in America.

To quote Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, “Never again is now.”

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