For a while, the only media outlet covering the recent arson attacks on Black Churches in the American south was Buzzfeed. Other channels were silent about the issue until, within 10 days, we saw 8 Black churches burn across the south.
I am heading to Tunisia at the end of the month to visit some friends. Last week there was a shooting targeting tourists in a few popular tourist areas along Tunisia’s coast. I am not traveling to those sites, but friends and family members, particularly my parents, expressed concern that I was visiting Tunisia.
I immediately checked the US Embassy website for travel warnings and bans for Tunisia and looked for further signs of trouble.
But I paused.
It quickly became absurd to me that I was looking for a travel warning for an unrelated city, when the country I live in now is experiencing a calculated wave of violence. Eight black churches in 10 days across the American South have burned down.
In the last few years that I have lived here, I watched a series of white males decide that specific populations of people that they did not like should die. And yet, while their goals are to cause fear and suffering to the communities they target, we have not called them terrorists. When I was in college, the targets were an audience at a movie theatre in Colorado and the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, very close to my college campus. Later, it was the women on the lawn of the Sorority at UC Santa Barbara, and most recently it was the community inside of a church in Charleston.
The US does not issue travel bans for these acts of violence, even though they are horrific. We also haven’t managed to improve gun regulation, specifically running decent background checks, despite repeated horrific events.
The US has also not issued a travel warning to travelers warning them about the arson campaign targeting peaceful religious centers across the south.
When I am able to divorce my instinctual reaction to these events, it does present a clear case study of “who makes the rules” and who decides “who is dangerous.”
My last thought: If we fear violence and we allow it to dictate our every day experiences, we are allowing it to win. We cannot allow it, or more specifically those who refuse to negotiate rather than turn to violence, to win.