It is, by now, well known that Dylann Roof’s motivation in shooting a bunch of innocent people at a historical black church was to start a race war. But how exactly do you start a race war? If you’re a member of the media or just any old schmo using the Charleston massacre as an opportunity to write some incendiary articles, fire off a few inflammatory tweets or connect up with your personal network of race-baiting extremists, let me tell you what you need to do to help Roof succeed. Now, keep in mind I’m not suggesting you ought to help the race war along. In fact, I think (just one guy’s opinion, you know …) a race war isn’t such a great idea. But if, let’s say, you disagreed with me, as is your prerogative, and thought a race war is precisely what we needed right now (it’s been awhile since we had a good ol’ war like they used to have, after all), then here are five helpful tips you can use to fan the flames:
- Take the rantings of a hate-filled loon seriously. The first thing you definitely don’t want to do if you wanted to start a race war is ignore Dylann Roof’s message as being beneath serious consideration. See, when you just label him a single sick extremist, try him, convict him, punish him and be done with him, you risk sweeping him and what he did under the rug. If you want a race war, you don’t want to do that. You want to give him and his message a public platform. That means taking his message about race very seriously, repeating it ad nauseam and discussing it thoroughly. This way you can help divide the country by turning Roof into a martyr for a cause for some and public enemy #1 for others. In fact, what you might want to do is suggest that labeling him a deranged wacko is itself racist insofar as it ignores his connection with all those other racists and would-be-racists out there (and this way you point out the connection to them too, in case they missed it). Here are some excellent examples of articles that did a bang-up job following this strategy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/torraine-walker/white-supremacist-america-hes-not-crazy-hes-your-creation_b_7618140.html;http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/18/1394297/-Why-we-must-call-Dylann-Roof-a-terrorist. Way to go, guys! Why don’t you provide a platform for a few more white supremacists while you’re at it? Oh, you’re way ahead of me on that one too, huh?: http://www.vice.com/read/what-white-supremacists-are-saying-online-about-the-south-carolina-church-shooting-618. In fact, even if you’re one of the same people who complain very vocally when Islamic terrorists get branded as exponents of the pernicious jihadist ideology within Islam rather than viewed as isolated nutcases with no connection to Islam, you can still go ahead and point out how Dylann Roof is part of a big pattern of white racism:http://www.salon.com/2015/06/18/its_not_about_mental_illness_the_big_lie_that_always_follows_mass_shootings_by_white_males (“There is no reasonable interpretation of his actions that don’t [sic] make this a textbook act of terrorism against black Americans as a community.”) Why worry about little matters like intellectual consistency when you have a race war to start, right? (Why even worry about basic subject-verb agreement, for that matter?)
- Connect the shooting up with larger political issues. This one follows straight from point 1, but the idea here is that if you want a race war, you really need to connect the dots for people. Lots of folks out there are kind of slowly simmering, and you need to bring them to a boil. Well-publicized research by Dan Kahan of Yale Law School, among others, suggests that if you want to have people’s views on an issue get entrenched and polarized, so that rational argumentation doesn’t even sway them any more (sort of like we did on climate change), what you need to do is connect that issue up with larger political commitments they already have. If Dylann Roof is just one guy who did a crazy, evil thing, then people have an easy time feeling he’s a solitary sicko who deserves what’s coming to him, and that’s the end of the story. But if he becomes a representative of the white race and the kind of white supremacist ideology shared by all or most white people, now we’re talking. Connect him up with the Confederate flag fluttering above the South Carolina State Capital and on the front porch of many Southern homes. Here you go; some helpful writers already gave you a roadmap:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/22/us/politics/republicans-tread-carefully-in-criticism-of-confederate-flag.html?_r=0;https://medium.com/@thejohnprice/yes-you-re-a-racist-and-a-traitor-6c4bb12c5b63; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/take-down-the-confederate-flag-now/396290/;http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/why-south-carolina-flies-confederate-flag;http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/06/19/3671684/charleston-shooting-confederate-flag/. Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic, the same guy who made a serious argument last year for race-based reparations to be paid by white America to black America (let’s wait till after the race war is done to dole those out, okay?), and always a reliable go-to guy if race wars are your thing, did a great job connecting the dots in the subtitle of his article … because some people never read past the subtitle, you know: “The flag that Dylann Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, endorses the violence he committed.” Great, that’s quite useful, Ta-Nehisi. Dylann Roof isn’t isolated. He’s just like you’all. You implicitly endorse him by waving the same flag he embraced.Thanks for pointing that out and making all those people feel like their basic loyalties and life choices are at stake in this. And don’t forget to demonize those race-war hatin’ Rebublican politicians trying to keep the dots unconnected: http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/politics/lindsey-graham-dylann-roof-confederate-flag-gun/;http://www.salon.com/2015/06/19/jeb_bushs_pathetic_charleston_dodge_i_dont_know_if_white_supremacist_suspect_was_motivated_by_racism/; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/18/why-the-gop-hates-talking-about-hate-conservatives-don-t-want-to-confront-racism-in-charleston-shooting.html. This is actually a very important step because, as Kahan’s research demonstrates, there’s no better way to polarize us on an issue than to link it up our party preferences, since that immediately makes us feel like if we want to stay loyal to our political party of choice (which most people do), we’d better get on the right side of this issue as well. Democrats are for blacks, and Republicans are for whites. Okay, got it. I don’t have a political party myself yet, but I’ll do my best to try to pick one pronto so that I know which side of the race war I’m on.
- Antagonize those no good white people, and make black people feel their lives are in mortal danger. If you want to start a race war, you’re going to have to make the races angry at each other, right? For example, let’s say (this is hypothetical, folks) a white cop shoots an unarmed black man, and you know next to nothing about the incident except for the fact that the cop was white and the victim was black. Well, that’s enough for racism right there. You need to cry racism and do it fast! Do it before the facts come in, because, as Josef Stalin said, “facts are obstinate things,” and before their obstinacy mucks things up and gets in the way and shows that things were actually a lot more complicated than they looked at first glance, make sure to get that “first glance” out there so everyone can prejudge the issue (yeah, “prejudge,” as in “prejudice”). First impressions have a nice way of sticking in people’s minds. And once you cry “racism!” repeatedly and loudly enough to start some riots, it’ll be way too late to clear anything up. Well, it’s the same with this incident. You need to make those white people feel besieged. Tell them Dylann Roof is sort of, like, their hero, the exponent of their hate-filled ideology, and while you’re at it, make black people fear for their lives. Like this nice little run-down of the victims of white supremacism: http://www.salon.com/2015/06/19/this_is_american_terrorism_white_supremacys_brutal_centuries_long_campaign_of_violence/. Here’s a good quote from the article for both the whites and blacks out there: “Whether at swimming pools or churches, whether on suburban sidewalks or city streets, there is no place Black folk are safe from the police use of excessive force or guns of a white supremacist assassin. History has shown that white supremacist violence is grossly systemic and is an existential threat to Black people living in America.” And here’s a nice rundown of racial violence from Ferguson to Charleston (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/us/from-ferguson-to-charleston-and-beyond-anguish-about-race-keeps-building.html?rref=us&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&pgtype=Multimedia) to remind black people why they ought to feel this country’s got it out for them, while reminding white people of all these incidents on which their views diverge from those of black people. My favorite article, though, is this one (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2015/06/white-fragility-silence-and-supremacy-why-all-of-your-hands-are-bloody/), with a title that gets right to the point: “ White Fragility, Silence, and Supremacy: Why All White Hands Are Bloody.” Are you white? Well, there you go — your hands are bloody. Take heed and take stock.
- Go after young people. They’re the ones who’ll be doing the fighting.We all know that when there’s a war on, the ones who do the fighting are usually the young, right? And they’re also the ones whose underdeveloped senses of judgment, reflection and self-restraint are likely to lead them to do the kinds of rash things that set wars in motion. So, if you really want a race war, you need to call white millennials racist, which is quite easy, since Dylann Roof was, well, a millennial, and they’re millennials, and since he’s a millennial and they’re also millennials, they’re the same … in that way … and maybe in other ways … like racism. Or something like that:http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/06/20/415878789/dylann-roof-and-the-stubborn-myth-of-the-colorblind-millennial;http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/06/18/charleston-racism-and-the-myth-of-tolerant-millennials/. Of course, if you want to start a race war, while it would be a good idea to keep encouraging us to talk more about race (since we haven’t been talking about race enough the past few years), it would definitely not be a good idea to ask, as part of that discussion, whyDylann Roof, only 21 years old, so strongly identified with his white race and felt so antagonized and besieged as a white person as to believe that he needed to start a race war … and whether his extreme polarization on the issue of race might’ve had anything at all to do with the fact that the race-baiting media has been talking about little other than race these last few years and shamelessly sensationalizing every incident to the point where people — whose polarization on race issues had reached an all-time low a decade or so ago — are now more polarized than ever, primed to consider race a defining feature of their identity and of American politics and to see everything around them in black and white. Again, to be clear, let’s not talk about that, because it’s too uncomfortable and complicated a topic to explore if you want a simple, solid race war. It’s not good for people to perceive complications and ambiguities if you’re mobilizing them for war. It’s not good for them to perceive that they’re being manipulated and polarized by the media. And it’s definitely not good for them to recognize that if they just stopped viewing everything in terms of black and white and started treating race more like the pernicious sociological fiction that, in fact, it is, they might then begin forming potent cross-racial alliances to deal with the real economic issues that are keeping poor blacks and poor whites (including Southern whites with a history of drug abuse like Dylann Roof) at each other’s throats while the 1% benefits from the political gridlock and, dare I say it, from the race war that’s around the corner.
- Call for provocative acts in reprisal. If you want a war, antagonizing people with mere ideas is never enough. You need to be thinking tirelessly about next steps. Ask yourself this important question: what concrete acts can we imagine and call for that will make people feel roused to violence? Hmm … well, how ‘bout some good, old-fashioned flag-burning? That’s always a dependable rabble-rouser. Why don’t we write articles calling for the burning of confederate flags? Gee, despite my best efforts, I again seem to have failed in coming up with an original idea here. Our insightful, forward-thinking journalists are, yet again,way ahead of me on this:http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/06/19/south-carolina-shootings/28982177/. As this article points out, “ Of course, burning the Confederate flag would be disrespectful. That is exactly the point.” The article eloquently concludes, “In honor of Dylann Roof, it’s time to burn, baby, burn.”
Yes, that’s right: we need to do things to honor Dylann Roof and the cause he stood for. Or actually we don’t. We’re already doing them. But maybe more of us need to contribute. When the race war comes — and at this rate, it’s only a matter of time — we’ll all want to be one of those who can say we were part of the vanguard instigating the conflict.
So there you go; keep up the good work, and keep on race-baiting. It’s for a good cause.