US Audio Analysis: Charleston, Guns, and Racism

PHOTO: A memorial for the nine victims of the Charleston shootings (Win McNamee/Getty)

I spoke with BBC Radio Wales on Sunday morning, in the aftermath of the Charleston shootings in which a white supremacist killed nine people in an African-American church, about the lasting issues of guns and racism in American society.

Listen to discussion from 26:05

We have these cases periodically of mass killings, and nothing is done about it. It’s almost like a Groundhog’s Day of innocents dying, quite frankly, because no one has the political will to try to control the problem.

But there are wider issues here. There are issues of race which have been exposed, more than 50 years after we had this great advances in civil rights. And these issues of race are tied into issues about the American economy and the “American Dream” which aren’t being addressed.

Because when people get frustrated, when they get angry, then you have these outbursts of violence which sometimes have racial overtones.

On the refusal of politicians and much of the media to address the issues over Charleston:

It’s hard to face the reality. It’s easier to say this is a crazed, deranged person. This is used both with race and with guns. You will have people saying, “Nah, it’s someone who is disturbed by television or he had a bad upbringing.

The one sign of hope is that on Saturday, at the church where this occurred, there were people coming together, people forgiving the shooter. They were saying not only do we forgive him but we have to find a way forward out of the violence.

You have to hope that image is one that will last in America and not be forgotten in a few weeks.

On race and Southern heritage:

How much do you allow people to have their local traditions and heritage? I grew up in Alabama where the Confederate flag is quite common, in public spaces and outside homes. People do look at that and say, “This is not racist. We’re just celebrating part of our history and heritage.”

But at some point, you have to have people saying, “This heritage causes offensive and causes discord and division”, instead of pulling back and saying that we are not going to do anything about this.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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