The Rest Of The World Thinks Americans Should Be Ashamed

Reputation is the general opinion that people have about someone or something, and although Americans have a very high opinion of themselves, and this country, that is simply not the case around the world. Even setting aside the event in Charleston this week, it is easy to understand why, like a few astute Americans, people around the world do not have a very high opinion of a nation they rightly describe as structurally violent and racist.

If there is only one thing the world has learned about Americans, it is that besides being inordinately racist, they typically resort to violence to achieve their goals at home and abroad. That being the case, there is nothing un-American about the Confederate racist who gunned down nine innocent African Americans in a place they considered a sanctuary; their church. Violence, particularly gun violence, against people of color and to solve differences is explicitly American, and as the world sees it, shameful.

Whether Americans believe it or not, people from around the world and outside of America’s immediate sphere of influence get a very accurate picture of this country because they are not fed by America’s corporate conservative media. The latest race-driven attack on a specific group of people was not so much a shock to other nations, although it was shockingly brutal to many, but a reminder that Americans as a group are gun-addicted and steeped in racism. In countries that have strict gun laws in place, firearm violence is virtually “unheard of,” and like this author’s colleagues from around the globe, they wonder why, after so many mass shootings, there is a fanatical gun culture panting for more firearm ownership.

Some of the assessments of the sad state of affairs in America, affairs that stain the nation’s reputation, are not only telling about the American people, they show just how backward and savage this country really is. For example, people in China compared the United States to lawless Somalia and cited racial discrimination as fueling the level and frequency of violence. 

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Claire Taylor of Gun Free South Africa said, “The USA is completely out of step with the rest of the world. We’ve tightened our gun laws and have seen a reduction.” Taylor is not entirely correct; America may be out of step with civilized societies, but it is completely in step with lawless countries like Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq where gun proliferation and prejudice have produced a nation that a neighboring country accurately portrayed as a “structurally violent.”

That incredibly astute observation was courtesy of a Mexico City newspaper, La Jornada, that wrote that “the U.S. has become a structurally violent state where force is frequently used domestically and internationally to resolve differences. In this context, the unchecked and even paranoid citizen armament is no coincidence. Such a phenomenon reflects the feeling of extensive sectors about the supposed legitimacy of violent methods.” The paper’s editors mean extensive sectors such as Republicans in Congress, gun fanatics in the racist Confederacy, the white supremacist and militia movement, and much of the nation’s law enforcement community.

The La Jornada observation was particularly prescient in describing Americans’ reliance on the use of force to resolve differences both against other Americans who are not white, and other nations (that are also not white). Even though President Barack Obama changed the nation’s international relations by using diplomacy instead of force to resolve its differences, he is virtually powerless to stop white Americans with guns from killing African Americans due to the prevalence of racial animus in the population. America is structurally violent and if Republican warmongers had their way, it would exude its violence all over the brown people in the Middle East. American racism is not confined to animus toward African Americans, but they are the primary victims of this country’s race-driven bigotry; bigotry that confounds other people around the world.

An attorney in Tokyo, Hiroko Takimoto, said America’s “Racially motivated killings are simply something Japanese as a people cannot understand.” The Charleston killings “devastated” a Tokyo University political science student, Yuka Christine Koshino, who had previously participated in racism awareness campaigns while studying at the University of California at Berkeley. Koshino said “those interactions had given her hope that the situation [in America] was improving. The shootings shocked me.”

Koshino was either shocked because she has not paid attention to the news from America over the past six years, or she was naïve to believe that “racism awareness campaigns” are of any value in a deeply racist nation like America; obviously they hold no value whatsoever. Teaching people that racism exists and how to identify it is not now or ever going to make it disappear. In fact in a country like America ‘racism awareness campaigns’ will only expose the high level of racial animus plaguing the nation; particularly in the former Confederacy, the conservative media, and of course the Republican Party and all its iterations.

The Charleston racially-motivated massacre did surprise some people around the world who, like many Americans, thought an African American President meant the nation’s dark days of naked racism were history. Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif, representing Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, said the church shooting shocked many. He said, “People all over the world believed that racism had gone from the U.S. when Barack Obama was elected to lead the superpower, twice. But the Charleston shooting has reminded us that in fact, it still remains… and can explode at any time, like a terrorist act by an individual.”

American racism is not necessarily unique, and it is true that other countries, such as Britain do struggle with racism and prejudice against outsiders, but that racism does not result in regularly occurring mass shootings. People around the world rightly acknowledge that the massacres in America are a result of a Constitution that protects the right to keep and bear arms, but not protect people of color’s lives. A Canadian resident said, “Guns are in their constitution. I’m pretty sure no one else has anything similar. I never understand why they think gun violence is going to solve anything.” It is simply because this is America and gun violence is as much a part of the culture as the racism that pervades the former Confederacy.

The Charleston shootings reinforced the opinion of the British people that “America has too many guns and too many racists.” In fact in a British newspaper on the front page the headline read, “America’s shame.” The paper’s editors said that “America seems to have moved backward since Obama’s election” and that the “obscene proliferation of guns only magnifies tragedies like the racially-motivated church shooting.” What the newspaper’s editors obviously fail to understand is that the racism rearing its Confederate head of late never went away although they are correct that the President’s election did incite racists to come out of the closets with their guns locked and loaded looking for a race war.

What the British people, and world community for that matter, fail to comprehend is that Americans have no sense of shame over the increasing frequency of mass and racially-motivated shootings. It is just part of what it means to be American, and exceptional. It is why law enforcement continues shooting unarmed African Americans with veritable impunity and why conservatives are scrambling to explain away the Charleston shooter as ‘disturbed.’

Dylann Roof is not disturbed, he is a typical American gun fanatic and a Confederate racist; a product of his American South upbringing.  Except for a relatively small segment of the population, most Americans think his actions are nothing to be ashamed of no matter what the world thinks because this is America and whatever happens here is exceptional.

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