There’s so much to say about the Charleston atrocity and no shortage of commentary throughout the media. One of the most perceptive analyses we’ve found is from David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker:
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Between 1882 and 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, three thousand four hundred and forty-six black men, women, and children were lynched in this country—a practice so vicious and frequent that Mark Twain was moved, in 1901, to write an essay called “The United States of Lyncherdom.” (Twain shelved the essay and plans for a full-length book on lynching because, he told his publisher, if he went forward, “I shouldn’t have even half a friend left down [South].”) These thousands of murders, as studied by the Tuskegee Institute and others, were a means of enforcing white supremacy in the political and economic marketplaces; they served to terrorize black men who might dare to sleep, or even talk, with white women, and to silence black children, like Emmett Till, who were deemed “insolent.”
But the words attributed to the shooter are both a throwback and thoroughly contemporary: one recognizes the rhetoric of extreme reaction and racism heard so often in the era of Barack Obama.