In response to Charleston
America is the Society of the Spectacle, and, predictably, much of the response to the Charleston shootings revolved around the Confederate flag. The governor of South Carolina has agreed to take it down from the state house in Columbia, and her decision has been hailed as a major step forward.
In the United States, everything is tolerated—except ordinary people acting on their own initiative. President Obama’s speech after Charleston included expressions of sympathy with the victims, references to the “bad” past, promises of a “hate crimes” investigation, calls to let “law enforcement” agencies do their job—and more gun control. (Imagine his response when black people start arming themselves to defend their churches.)
In Notes from No Man’s Land, Eula Biss tells of a black woman denied custody of her grandchildren by the Children’s Protective Services—they are the “good folks,” right?—even though she was perfectly able to care for them, had worked as a teacher’s aid for seven years, had a certificate in early childhood education, and had taken all the mandatory workshops for prospective foster parents. The reason given was that she had “discharged a firearm with gross negligence”—eleven years earlier. Eula says there is a CPS pattern of taking black children, especially ones light-skinned enough to be adopted by whites, from their families on various pretexts—“there was always a crime.” She calls it the modern version of forcible sterilization and says it is happening on a large scale. If taking down the flag furthers a movement to destroy the CPS, then I’m for it. But if not, what’s the big deal?
Every institution in this society does the opposite of what it pretends: the schools spread ignorance, the hospitals spread disease, the prisons spread crime, the welfare dept. spreads poverty, and the CPS endangers children. Destroy them all!
Noel Ignatiev is editor of A New Notion: Two Works by C.L.R. James: "Every Cook Can Govern" and "The Invading Socialist Society".