Part 2—Our latest narrative spreads: By now, the evidence seems fairly clear. Dylann Roof, age 21, hasn’t yet achieved his goal of instigating a “race war.”
In the early returns, in fact, he seems to have done the opposite. In the past few days, South Carolina has provided us with endless scenes of black and white and brown together—even with scenes of red and blue together!
That said, don’t lose hope! None of this means that we the liberals can’t turn this lost soul with a murderous gun into the dynamic figure he crazily dreamed of becoming.
Is/was Roof a “terrorist?” For various reasons, we’d be disinclined to describe him that way. Others disagree.
In this morning’s New York Times, Roxane Gay describes Roof as a terrorist, a view which many people affirm. More remarkably, she’s pushing a new tribal narrative—a narrative which lies just this side of being Our Own Blindingly Obvious Lie.
Based on everything we know, we assume that Gay is a good, decent person who remembers to feed her pets. That said, if you ever thought that we the liberals don’t behave the way The Others do, we recommend that you take a look at her remarkable column.
Her column is the most prominent op-ed piece in today’s hard-copy Times. It appears beneath a headline which struck us as perhaps a bit strange right off the bat:
“Why I Can’t Forgive the Killer in Charleston”
Have you “forgiven the killer in Charleston?” Before you attempt to answer, let’s put that a different way:
Has it even occurred to you that this is your question to answer?
For ourselves, we pity the killer in Charleston, as we tend to pity those who throw their own lives away in crazed, ridiculous ways.
(Should you “pity the poor immigrant?” To see Bob Dylan argue the case, you can just click here.)
In this instance, the killer in Charleston murdered nine people in the process of throwing his own life away. The people he murdered are widely judged to be of superlative character.
This helps explain the remarkable way these murders have brought the state’s red and blue together. No “race war” has broken out, although we can always hope.
Have you forgiven Dylann Roof? In many cases, family members of the murdered people actually have! Their public conduct has been widely viewed as remarkable—even perhaps as hard to comprehend.
That said, it never occurred to us that we were supposed to push them aside and discuss whether we, in our manifest greatness, were willing to forgive the killer in Charleston, who killed no one we knew. But that project did occur to Gay, and we’d have to say that she has cuffed those people aside in the rudest possible manner.
We the liberals sometimes evince a remarkable sense of self-importance and self-involvement. It seems to us that Gay may be working those precincts today.
In the passage shown below, Gay names two of the relatives who have forgiven the killer in Charleston. Immediately after this passage, Gay will start to push a narrative which closely resembles a lie:
GAY (6/24/15): Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I am fine with this failing. I am particularly unwilling to forgive those who show no remorse, who don’t demonstrate any interest in reconciliation. I do not believe there has been enough time since this terrorist attack for anyone to forgive. The bodies of the dead are still being buried. We are still memorizing their names: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.Might we ask a few questions?
We are still memorizing these names but the families who loved the people who carried these names have forgiven Dylann Roof. They offered up testimony in court, less than 48 hours after the trauma of losing their loved ones in so brutal a manner. Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, said, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love, and their legacies will live in love.” Nadine Collier, who lost her mother, said: “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.”
In the current circumstance, who cares whether forgiveness comes easily to Gay? Who cares how she feels about her possible “failing?”
Apparently, Gay and the relevant New York Times editors do! In a touch of the macabre, those editors have published this column under a photo of Gay in which she wonderfully mugs for the camera.
It isn’t Gay’s fault that they published that photo. But its publication gives us a sense of the editors’ judgment, which may not be perfectly flawless.
In that passage, Gay names Alana Simmons, an impressive young woman whose grandfather was murdered by the killer in Charleston. Last night, we saw Simmons on CNN as she explained her reactions to her grandfather’s murder.
No one has to share her general perspective, of course. But below, you can see what it is.
Simmons actually knew her grandfather, who was murdered by Roof. This is what she said last night about the walk her grandfather walked:
LEMON (6/23/15): Alana, you addressed Dylann Roof at a hearing on Friday. Let's take a look.In that way, Simmons described the walk her grandfather walked. She seems to be describing a religious/ethical/intellectual tradition which played a very large role in the mid-century civil rights movement.
SIMMONS (videotape): Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won't win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.
LEMON: I can't even imagine how you got through that. Some of the family members of the victims, Alana, said that they forgave Dylann Roof. How do you get to that so quickly?
SIMMONS: Well, that’s what inspired me. When I got there and they went up and that was just their immediate reaction with “I forgive you” and “may God have mercy on your soul,” that inspired me because it really showed that, you know, if we would have went up there and to say hateful things to the suspect, that wouldn't have changed anything.
That would have been giving him exactly what he wanted. And we know our relatives and our loved ones, and they wouldn't have wanted that. That’s not the walk that they walked. That's not the talk that they talked. They spoke love. They preached love. They lived in love. So, when—in their memory, that's all we're here for. For love.
LEMON: Yes. And in their memory, you're saying that hate won’t win. You said it there and you’re starting a campaign call “Hate won’t win.” Tell us about it, please.
SIMMONS: Yes. My siblings and I, we sat down and we prayed about what would be the best thing to do for our grandfather. To carry on his legacy and the legacy of the other victims.
We’d like to see more discussion of that. Moments later, Simmons described her reaction to discussions of the killings she has seen on the Internet:
SIMMONS: I was almost in tears at what I saw about how people were focusing on the suspect and on the judge and on what the police did here and what they didn’t do there. And it’s not like that in Charleston. It hasn’t been like that.No one has to agree with Simmons’ general perspective on any of this. That said, we were amazed by the way Gay proceeded in today’s column.
When we got here, it seems like everyone was singing Kumbaya almost. So, you know, to get on the Internet and to see that the rest of the world wasn’t partaking in that, knowing that that’s what the family of the victims would want and that’s what the victims themselves would have wanted, it broke my heart.
So, we came up with the campaign called the “Hate Won't Win” challenge...And basically, all we’re asking you to do, and this is with no funding or anything like that, all we’re asking you to do is to show an act of love to someone who’s different from you.
In the passage we’ve posted above, Gay has already said that, in her opinion, “I do not believe there has been enough time since this terrorist attack for anyone to forgive.”
She’s entitled to her opinion, of course. That said, her opinion strikes us as oddly dismissive of people like Simmons, who were directly affected by these appalling murders.
To us, that passage almost seemed to border on the rudely dismissive. But as Gay continued, we’d have to say she came very close to telling an ugly, dismissive lie in service to a new tribal narrative—a narrative she virtually cut-and-pasted from Sunday’s Washington Post:
GAY (continuing directly from above): I deeply respect the families of the nine slain who are able to forgive this terrorist and his murderous racism. I cannot fathom how they are capable of such eloquent mercy, such grace under such duress.Gay says she deeply respects the families. She then makes it clear that she doesn’t and won’t.
Nine people are dead. Nine black people are dead. They were murdered in a terrorist attack.
Over the weekend, newspapers across the country shared headlines of forgiveness from the families of the nine slain. The dominant media narrative vigorously embraced that notion of forgiveness seeming to believe that if we forgive we have somehow found a way to make sense of the incomprehensible.
We are reminded of the power of whiteness. Predictably, alongside the forgiveness story, the media has tried to humanize this terrorist. They have tried to understand Dylann Roof’s hatred because surely, there must be an explanation for so heinous an act. At the gunman’s bond hearing, the judge, who was once reprimanded for using the N-word from the bench, talked about how not only were the nine slain and their families victims, but so were the relatives of the terrorist. There are no limits to the power of whiteness when it comes to calls for mercy.
The call for forgiveness is a painfully familiar refrain when black people suffer. White people embrace narratives about forgiveness so they can pretend the world is a fairer place than it actually is, and that racism is merely a vestige of a painful past instead of this indelible part of our present.
Black people forgive because we need to survive. We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive. We have had to forgive slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, inequity in every realm, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, inadequate representation in popular culture, microaggressions and more. We forgive and forgive and forgive and those who trespass against us continue to trespass against us.
In our view, she rushes to disrespect the families in service to something which closely resembles a lie.
As is often the case in these matters, Roxane Gay seems to know everything. She knows why “white people” do what they do. She possesses the same omniscience concerning the behavior of “black people.”
“Black people forgive because we need to survive,” she all-knowingly says. That pretty much isn’t what Simmons said about her decision and her reaction. But as is often the case with our tribe’s all-knowing observers, Roxane Gay knows much better than the black country girl really could.
Readers will surely see the narrative Gay is pushing. It is taken, virtually word for word, from Professor Butler’s ludicrous claim in Sunday’s Washington Post, which we discussed in yesterday’s report.
Almost seeming to cut-and-paste from Professor Butler’s work, Gay instructs us about “the power of whiteness.” Cutting and pasting further, Gay further instructs us:
“The media has tried to humanize this terrorist.”
This horrible person provides no examples. And the Times required none!
Just for once, let’s try to tell the truth. Just for once, let’s try to stop reciting our latest script. Let’s consult our own experiences:
Just for once, let’s be truthful. Have you actually seen the media “trying to humanize the terrorist” in some inappropriate way?
Go ahead. Tell the truth. Have you actually seen that?
On Sunday, Professor Butler made the mistake of offering an example. Being a professor, it probably didn’t occur to her that someone would fact-check her claim.
Professor Butler’s example was clownishly fraudulent. But the Washington Post threw it in print in their Sunday Outlook section, and when Gay cut-and-pasted Butler’s work, the Times asked for no examples!
Alana Simmons “was almost in tears” when she saw these people behaving in these way. But what could Simmons possibly know? Too little time has gone by! Plus, she’s a country girl!
The “professors,” our greatest burden and scourge, cuffed her remarkable traditions aside. As they did, they pimped our pitiful tribe’s latest ridiculous narrative, which we must learn to recite.
The Washington Post and the New York Times were happy to let them do this. The New York Times even published Gay’s column under a smiley face!
Still coming: What James Clyburn said
Just so you’ll know: More about the author, who offered exactly no examples in support of her word-for-word claim:
My writing is represented by Maria Massie of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.These are the people who hand us our scripts. Although they may not want you to know, they live in a grasping world.
27 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
My film and television interests are represented by Sylvie Rabineau of the RWSG Literary Agency.
1107 1/2 Glendon Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90024
My speaking engagements are represented by Kevin Mills of The Tuesday Agency.
The Tuesday Agency
132 1/2 East Washington
Iowa City, Iowa 52240
My publicist at Grove/Atlantic (An Untamed State) is John Mark Boling.
My publicist at Harper (Bad Feminist) is Gregory Henry.
My e-mail address is roxane at roxanegay.com.
I have a Facebook page that I haven’t figured out at http://www.facebook.com/roxanegay74.
I am on Twitter at @rgay.
Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.