By Igor Volsky and Victoria Fleischer
Pastor Thomas A. Dixon, a community organizer in South Carolina and co-founder of The Coalition (People United To Take Back Our Community), sat down with ThinkProgress in Charleston to discuss how everyday racism contributed to the tragedy at Mother Emanuel Church. We spoke on a park bench on Calhoun Street in the shadow of a statue of John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina senator and Vice President who vehemently defended the institution of slavery.
Dixon urged the American people to address the obstacles facing the African American community, from police brutality to inequality in education and housing, likening society’s refusal to seriously discuss these concerns to a child who is ignored by her parents. “The voice of that child is suppressed, ‘no I’ll get back to you later,’’ he said. “And all the while, the problem is growing, it’s growing, it’s being internalized more, the frustrations, and sooner or later as that community matures in the evil state of mind that that is, eventually it’s going to come out.”
Pastor Thomas A. Dixon: The wretchedness that we are living in, right now it can’t get much worse. This is a systemic problem that’s all over our nation.
Igor Volsky: Black lives matter, Ferguson, the New York Incident — I Can’t Breath — and now Mother Emanuel. What are the connections there?
Dixon: In President Obama’s first election, the hatred that surfaced came out more and more and it even developed into an alternate party system in America called the Tea Party and manifest itself through every aspect of life. The Pandora’s box was open and out of that box came hatred, racial hatred, ignorance. The worst side of human beings. Things were spread across the nation: our country is being taken over by black people, black people historically have raped our women and done these vile things to our women. This young man was what, 21 years old? The president has been in office for 7 years? This is what he heard for the last seven years in his community. It’s obvious by his words while he pulled the trigger during the shooting.
Bill O’Reilly on Fox News: Young black American men are so often involved in crime.
Dixon: It’s a direct mimic from what came out of the media presentation of certain people who have convinced a segment of the U.S. that black people are something to be hated, feared, loathed despised. The seeds were planted in his mind and just like any other seed, there is a germination period and then sooner or later that germination period is going to end. The seed is going to open, and then the plant is going to sprout. What happened is that plant not only began to sprout. It took really good roots in his heart — evil roots in his heart — and once that plant bore fruit, the fruit was nine dead people inside of Mother Emanuel Church on Wednesday night.