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Friday, June 19, 2015

On the Charleston Shooting

A plea for decency


The shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston is a tragedy and an undeniable act of racism. It is entirely proper to consider it an act of domestic terrorism. We should pause for a moment to remember the victims and offer our thoughts or prayers to their families.

I wish we could also pause for a moment before we start to politicize this tragedy. Alas, my friends on the Left and Right have already begun to draw up the battle lines.

On the Left come the disappointing, but not unexpected calls for gun control. President Obama has already weighed in the issue. Yet, it’s hard to think of any rational gun control law that would have stopped this crime. Nor is the racism reflected by this horrendous act an inevitable extension of the “racism” reflected in food stamp cuts or whatever.

And, from the Right, I’ve seen too many attempts to deny the racism that underlies this crime. No, it doesn’t mean that America is an inherently racist nation, but to deny that racism is part of our heritage or that it continues to exist is to ignore reality.

In the same vein, I’m revolted by the number of comments I’ve seen to the effect of “blacks kill whites all the time, but the media never makes a big deal about it.” First, it’s not true. Less than 17 percent of murders of white Americans are committed by African-Americans. (About 10 percent of African-American murders are committed by Whites.) Second, there is an obvious difference between a random crime committed in the course of a robbery, say, and an act specifically predicated on racial hate.

Perhaps, just once, we could stop to think before we say something too stupid in the wake of a tragedy.

Perhaps we could just mourn.

These are the victims.

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, branch manager for the Charleston County Library System

  • Susie Jackson, 87, longtime church member

  • Ethel Lance, 70, employee of Emanuel AME Church for 30 years

  • Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, admissions counselor of Southern Wesleyan University

  • The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, state senator, Reverend of Emanuel AME Church

  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, earned business administration degree from Allen University

  • Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, retired pastor

  • Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, track coach at Goose Creek High School

  • Myra Thompson, 59, church member

This first appeared at Tanner On Policy.


  • Michael Tanner is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute where he heads research into a variety of domestic policies with a particular emphasis on poverty and social welfare policy, health care reform, and Social Security.