The racially motivated massacre this week at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, is yet another low point in American society. We've had multiple massacres over the past few years--at schools, at theaters, at shopping malls, and now, in churches. In every case, the media have given it a lot of air time, but have soon let it--and the underlying issues, especially gun control--drop in favor of fresher meat. In this case, however, the massacre has come on the heels of several other examples of racial violence--usually violence by police against African-Americans. Perhaps, these events, taken together, will give our elected officials reason to rise above the narrow interests of their funders. I am a hopeless optimist.
Clearly, we cannot erase racism in a single swipe. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which ended official slavery of African-Americans. This week marks the 51st anniversary of the Senate approval of the Civil Rights Bill, which set the stage for a generation of healing. The election of our first African-American President should have been another visible step toward a post-racist society, but instead we have seen racism creep back into our daily headlines.
We need to act, though. Here are a few small steps that might help reduce violence, if not racism itself:
1. Implement a national gun registration system. For decades, we have required any person who drives a car to be licensed to do so, and we have required that all cars be registered by their owners. Let's do the same for guns: (a) all gun owners must be licensed to use a gun, with the license to be renewed annually, and (b) all guns must be registered by their owners, with that registration to be renewed annually. This is not a threat to our Constitutional right to bear arms any more than car registration and driver licensing is a threat to our freedom to travel. However, it would provide a modicum of protection for all citizens.
2. One reason that citizens' voices are not heard in the debate over gun control is that the gun manufacturers have put so much money into the political process. Let's stop corporate funding of our elections and instead use public funding to ensure that all candidates have equal access to the election process.
3. 150 years after the end of the Civil War, let us, finally, stop the official use of the flag of the confederacy in state houses.
Americans cannot simply shrug and walk away from these recurring tragedies. We cannot simply accept the notion that the price of democracy is senseless violence. We are better than this. Or, at least, we can be better than this.