The Mask of Charleston

Posted: June 20, 2015 in New Post

In one Twilight Zone episode entitled The Mask a wealthy man named Jason is lying on his death bed. His daughter, son-in-law, and their two selfish children, assemble at his home, not out of concern for Jason, but in gleeful anticipation of inheriting his fortune. Jason, aware of the total self-absorbtion of his heirs, requires in his will that they wear Mardi Gras masks until midnight as a condition of their inheritance. Shortly after midnight, Jason passes, and his son-in-law gleefully proclaims him without a pulse. The family members remove the masks, to reveal the price of their greed: Their real faces will forever retain the hideous shape of the mask Jason choose for each of them, permanently revealing their inner ugliness to the world.

This week in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man walked into the historic black Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church and gunned down nine beautiful souls. His avowed motive was to “start a race war”. One eyewitness said that when one man asked the shooter to stop, he replied “No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.” He had told friends he wanted “white with white, and back with black”. He admitted to authorities that his actions were meant to be an act of terror.

At times like these, our country asks us to come together and mourn not only the loss of these precious lives, but also the loss of our collective souls in a sea of fear and loathing for anyone who is different from ourselves. Our country asks us through these tragic events to abandon our hate and inherit a better world, a better understanding of each other, and a stronger human bond. But there is a feeling among some conservatives that the only tragedy here is the loss of their white status. They mourn for their loss of privilege to discriminate against and exterminate people they consider inferior in mind and spirit.  So, when called to by their country to display some decency toward the victims and their families, to acknowledge the damage racial hatred has caused to our country, they instead put on a mask.

On Fox News, anchor Steve Doocey opined that it was “extraordinary”  that they were calling this a hate crime. The headline beneath the all white panel cried “Attack On Faith” as they hid behind the mask of “religious liberty”.  Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, in addressing the tragedy could not avoid defending the state’s flying the Confederate flag over the the state capitol.  She defended this symbol of racial hatred and put on the mask of “ignorance”.  Rick Perry called the president’s reaction to this tragedy an “overreaction” and sees the entire incident as an “accident”. In his twisted logic, this whole episode can be blamed on drug abuse. He put on the mask of “deflection”.  NRA board member Charles Cotton actually blamed one of the victims, Clementa Pinckney, for the deaths for his refusal to allow the congregation to carry firearms to church. He put on the mask of “malignant deception”.   And finally, the “smart” Bush, Jeb, had this to say: “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes”. This is the man who wants to become the third of his family to lead this country, and yet cannot bring himself to admit to the racism staring him in the face. He put on the mask of “crass stupidity”.

All these reactions are the result of decades of watching a white majority decry the loss of their privilege to hate and discriminate. They resent the change of their status and seek the refuge of a now extremist Republican party and their propaganda wing, Fox News. They seek to preserve their perceived inheritance of exclusive right to America and to exclude those they do not deem worthy. But as our country becomes more diverse, and we move forward in our evolution of ideas, these people will be revealed for what they are. And as midnight passes, history will remove their mask to reveal their ugliness for all time.

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