But it’s not mental illness, is it? Put bluntly, it’s racism. When Dylann Roof decided to enter a famously black church in Charleston with a loaded weapon, he did it because he hated black people, and he hated black people because he had grown up in an environment where he was taught that the outer 5mm of a person’s body is what gave them value.
Or gave them no value.
It seems that a person’s humanity resided only in the epidermis, and those with more melanin were a blight on the landscape, not really human, and were there only to be labourers in the white plantation.
The lineage is clear, of course. Slavery’s long shadow lies heavy on the landscape. It’s easy for us in the UK to say that it’s an American problem: they need to get over it. The thing is: we did this. When we sent shiploads of human cargo to the New World, we set up the system that confined black people to the poorest parts of that country, and the the lowest parts of the social scale. I’ll stop before I vanish into rich white man’s guilt, but that’s the history. I wish I knew how to fix the problem, but education has to be a part of the mix.
On the subject of education, Australian aboriginal child Samara Muir recently received a lesson that she is not going to forget for a long time. She had queued, with her mother, for two hours to get into a Frozen-themed snow zone in a shopping centre in Melbourne. Dressed in her favourite Elsa dress, she was looking forward to frollicking in the cotton-wool snow and having her photo taken. All well so far, until another young shopper and her mother challenged her right to exist with the words “Elsa isn’t black: black is ugly.”
Nicely done, white girl.
Australians have rallied around Samara and have proven determined to show her that she is beautiful, just the way she is. Hopefully, she will take the latter of these lessons, and the bigots who hate her on utterly specious grounds will feel the national poke in the eye.
The child who told Samara that black is ugly, however, learnt that message from somewhere. She wouldn’t have reached that conclusion all by herself. I guess the biggest tragedy is that humans still spend time and effort teaching their children how to hate one another. We spend time and effort teaching our youngest that others are worth less than them, that others aren’t really people.
But we are. We are all people, and we are all created beautiful.