The American comedian Jon Stewart had nothing funny to say last night (June 18). Instead he talked about the mass shooting in which a white man killed nine people in a historical black church in South Carolina.
He talked about the hypocrisy of the American response, and his lack of confidence in the American people to acknowledge and treat this as what it is: an act of terrorism, fueled by the racism that has plagued the US since its inception.
“I heard someone on the news say, ‘Tragedy has visited this church.’ This wasn’t a tornado. This was racist. This was a guy with a Rhodesia flag on his sweater.”
“I honestly have nothing other than just sadness, once again, that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist,” Stewart said. “And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is—we still won’t do jack shit. Yeah. That’s us.”
He also called out the disparity between the response to American mass killings, and the response to even a threat of attack from abroad.
“We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over like five or six different countries, all to keep Americans safe,” he said. “We’ll torture people—we’ve got to do whatever we can to keep Americans safe.
“Nine people, shot in a church. What about that?”
Stewart also called out the legacy of hatred and violence and the American Civil War, represented by the Confederate flag, which many in the South celebrate as heritage.
“In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named for Confederate generals who fought to keep black people from being able to drive freely on that road,” he said. “And the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves.”