Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Why we need to change NOW

It happened again. Another mass shooting with the same reaction from American politicians. Democrats say we need more gun control, and Republicans say the shooter was mentally unstable. Neither party is going to do anything. Just watch.

Both parties are incredibly flawed in their reasoning and actions. Democrats immediately jump to gun control, because they see it as the easiest option and think that removing guns will reduce violence. Which doesn't really work. And Republicans always say that people commit mass shootings, because they're mentally unstable. Which isn't always true.

Gun control is always brought up after a mass shooting. It seems like an easy solution to reducing gun violence, but it's not. Simply making less guns available on the free market doesn't work. If it did, Washington D.C. wouldn't have the highest gun crime rate in the nation, and Barbados wouldn't have a gun crime rate twice that of the United States.

In the wake of the Charleston attack, Obama said we need more gun control, because we "don't see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency" in foreign countries. That is not completely true. Take a look at this graph, taken from an Independent Journal Review's article on mass shootings.

It shows that out of 12 advanced nations, the United States is 6th in rampage shooting fatalities and fatal rampage shooting incidents per one million people. So while the United States had the most incidents from 2009-2013, it only had the 6th most per one million people. Also note how out of the 12 countries, all but the United States and Belgium have restrictive gun policies.

Look at these facts and statistics as well, gathered from various anti and pro gun-control websites, as well as school and government reports-

  • The NRA reported that the U.S. murder rate lowered 43% from 1991 through 2008, while at the same time, the number of privately owned firearms increased by 70-75 million.
  • Washington D.C. has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, and has the highest gun crime in the nation. Utah has some of the least strict gun control laws in the nation, and has the lowest gun crime rate in the nation
  • Guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense, according to a Northwestern University study. The Brady Campaign reports that 31,537 people are killed from gun violence each year. That means that guns are used 79.27 times more often to save a life than to take one.
  • A University of North Carolina study showed that twice as many children are killed playing football in school than are murdered by guns.

Aside from any sides' facts and statistics however, people are obviously still using guns to murder. But why is that? America's love for violence has to be at fault.

Take Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5) for instance. In the game, you have to shoot and kill people, steal cars, run from the police, and beat up and kill prostitutes to succeed. And people laugh when they play it. They think it's funny to run over people in the street. I have yet to meet a single person, including myself, who has not laughed while playing GTA 5. We know it's not real, but we still laugh and think it's funny when we kill people. Why? Because America loves violent video games. Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Destiny, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto are all among the most popular video games today, and every one of them requires you to kill. I personally enjoy some of those games, and don't think they are necessarily bad, but it just goes to show how much we love violence.

The problem doesn't just lie in our video games though. It lies in our movies as well.

Consider that 80% of the top 20 movies on the All-Time USA Box office chart feature violent deaths, murders, and/or gun violence. That's the stuff that excites us. If The Avengers featured a bunch of heroes fighting bad guys with karate, no one would see it. If Transformers fought the Decepticons with bows and arrows, no one would see it. Our thirst for an incredible amount of violence is why Iron Man has three movies and Hawkeye has zero.

We all love the movies how they are because we can, and frequently do, imagine ourselves in the characters' shoes. Who hasn't imagined themselves as Iron Man, Hulk, or Captain America after seeing them in action? Almost everyone does, because we think it'd be awesome to save the day by beating up or killing a bunch of bad guys. We think it would be cool to be those heroes and commit those acts of violence. We get an adrenaline rush just imagining it.

Now, take a look at this graph and just think about what it means.

This graph, taken from a 2013 MSNBC article, shows that six of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history happened in the last six years. Since 1949, 28% of the deadliest shootings have been in the last five years, and 92% have happened since 1980. Meanwhile, gun control in America has gotten more strict. Is that the cause? Maybe. Or is it more likely that America's increased love for violent movies and video games- which took off in the 80's and 90's- might have something to do with it?

This is where both the Democrats' and Republicans' arguments on guns fall apart. The amount of privately owned firearms from 1991 to 2008 increased by 70-75 million, while at the same time, America's gun control laws have become more restrictive. The murder rate decreased by 43%, but mass shootings have become more frequent. If gun control worked, then Americans would have bought less guns, and the amount of mass shootings would have gone down. If those 70-75 million guns reduced the murder rate, then why did mass shootings go up? There clearly is another factor or factors at play here.

Our violent video games and movies have become a reality for too many people. You can see violence any time you turn on your TV or X-Box. People who watch movies or play games like this their whole lives know violence all too well. It becomes normal to see someone or something getting shot and killed in a movie. It becomes a reality. People like to imagine themselves or imitate what they see on their TV. It's why anime and comic-con conventions are so big and why superhero costumes and sports jerseys are so popular. We love imitating what we see on TV. If people watched shows and movies and played video games with little violence, where would they find something to model their violence off of?

I'm not saying that video games are necessarily the cause for America's violence. I understand studies show that they don't make people more violent. I'm just using them to show how much more America has come to love violence, and that if someone is already violent in nature, they could possibly use video games or movies as something to model their violent outbursts on.

Should we ban those video games and movies? No. They are fun and don't always have a negative effect on people, and we have the right to enjoy them. But should we, as Americans, try to pursue a values change? Should we try to reduce our love of violence? Should we try to make our violent desires less of a reality? I don't know how anyone can say no.

Speaking of things we need to change...

America has a problem with this.

Look, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism. Period. The Confederate States of America formed and failed because they were relentless in maintaining a country that lived off of enslaving other human beings. Does the Confederate Flag stand for states' rights and a way of life outside of slavery? Sure. Are the majority of people who fly it racist? Probably not. But it's like the Nazi flag. The swastika itself is not a racist symbol, as it actually means "good fortune" or "well being" in Sanskrit. But it was ruined by racists, and we don't use it anymore because of the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Like the Confederate States, Nazi Germany had some good aspects in their culture, as they made great technological and medical advancements that changed the world, but blatant hate and racism overshadows everything else.

"But the flag represents states' rights!" Yeah, so does this one...

"It represents our way of life!"

Ok, but do you know what flag represented the South's way of life before the Confederate Flag? Yeahhh. This one (minus a few stars though, of course)...

The American Flag has stood for terrible things in its past, but we as a country have realized our mistakes and are doing our best to make up for them. We are constantly changing our values to reflect a society where everyone is equal. And we still do have problems. You can still hear the "n-word" in almost every rap song. We still define each other by the color of our skin or the continent where our ancestors came from, instead of just calling everyone an American. But we as a society have the ability to quickly move on and make up for our past problems.

Now, I feel like greatly reducing mass shootings can be easy. In terms of laws, maybe we should look into background checks. If you're mentally stable and aren't a criminal, your right to own a gun is not infringed upon. Proper background checks only take about 2-3 days. If that's what it takes to keep guns out of the hands of people who would want to harm others, then I think that sounds like a fair sacrifice to me. If I can help prevent another Sandy Hook or Charleston shooting by waiting three days to buy a gun, then sign me up.

Look, if your kids are doing this shit in your back yard, don't buy them a hand gun for their 21st birthday! Whether they have a mental illness or not, something is clearly wrong with them.

If you kid is exhibiting behaviors like this, chances are he or she has some serious issues. I don't get it. It seems like mass shooting after mass shooting, the gun itself was legal, but it was from a parents' gun safe or in Dylann Roof's case, was bought for him by his dad. If your kid has issues, don't tell them the password to your gun safe. Don't buy them a gun. If parents were more responsible in situations like this, I guarantee we would have way less mass shootings in America.

Let's wrap this up. Racism and violence are not one-way streets. There are racists in all races and creeds in America. If we foster our youth to understand that racism is wrong, that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism, then maybe we'd have less Dylann Roof's in America. If we stop using racially-driven words and stop worshiping the racist symbol that is the Confederate Flag today, then maybe we could have a little less racism tomorrow.

If you want to watch and play violent movies and video games, have fun. But just try to include something else except violence in your lives or your kids' lives. Binge watch Planet Earth on Netflix with your friends. Play a board game with your family. Go on a hike. Just do something calm and relaxing. Our love for violence and support for racist symbols has gone too far. Enough is enough. It is time to change.

Cover Image Credit: Alan Henry

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam


Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

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Representation In Media Matters

I can finally see a character who looks like me and isn't stereotype.


Growing up my parents made a conscious effort to buy dolls, books, and watch TV shows and movies with characters that looked like me. Both my parents were born in the heat of the civil rights movement, and let's just say the media was and still is controlled predominantly by white, straight, cis-gendered men. Hollywood (television & film) being one of the most successful exports for the United States. That being said, the media should feel obligated to represent the people that consume it, not just white, straight, cis-gendered men.

A prime example of how representation impacts community, was the release of "Black Panther." Personally, I saw the film THREE times and in two countries. I guess you could say I was a bit excited to see characters that 1) looked like me and 2) weren't the stereotypical rolls already portrayed in media. The film has broken several records: highest-grossing Superhero film in the U.S., first film since "Avatar" to spend five consecutive weeks at Top of Box Office, and top-grossing Opening Weekend for a film with a predominately Black cast. Clearly, there's a market for Black films. *side-eye @ Hollywood*

For the first time, Black characters were the heroes and kings and queens in a major blockbuster, not the villains or sidekicks. Also, the relationship between male and female characters weren't divisive and or used as an opportunity to belittle each other. Many of my family and friends raved about how they felt acknowledged by mainstream media. So many posts on social media praised the film and showed appreciation for its representation. More films and televisions need to be released to tell the stories of all minorities (racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religion) but their needs to be a change in the development and production departments to accurately depict these stories. There's a need for underrepresented populations to be in charge of their stories and the means of delivery.

This past June, I attended a conference hosted by the T. Howard Foundation, who focuses on diversity in media by providing college students with internships through partner companies such as but not limited to: Turner, Viacom, and NBCUniversal. During many of the panels, some questions included "how does it feel to be the only POC in the room? How do remain true to your own voice? Why are you interested in media?". The majority of answers to these questions all began with, "growing up I didn't see myself...". Authentic stories and portrayals come from the people who experience them.

No child should have to grow up feeling invalidated or that their experiences don't matter because they are represented in the media.

The reason I pursued a degree in Communications is that I want underrepresented populations to have media as an outlet to express themselves. We consume so much media every day and the landscape is rapidly changing. We have the opportunity to make sure the next generation isn't in the same position as we are now.

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Photo by Steven Van on Unsplash

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