Roof’s unspeakable act of terrorism still requires that he gets due
process under U.S. law. Technically and journalistically, you have to
refer to him as a suspect—even though there were eyewitnesses to the
massacre and damning evidence on his computer. When talking about his
crime, the politically correct way is to refer to it as “alleged.” I am
hard pressed to find a situation where the same judicial treatment
happened when a black suspect killed a white victim.
brought Roof some hamburgers after his arrest. After all, the kid was
hungry. He had only had a bag of Doritos and water earlier that day. At
the arraignment, Judge James Gosnell gave the families on the nine
victims the opportunity to tell Roof via video the impact of his evil
actions. While he had them all there, Judge Gosnell reminded the court
that Roof’s family were also victims and that the community needs to
“rally round them.”
went into sacred space last week pretending to fellowship with the
unsuspecting members of Emanuel AME Church family. Roof sat next to the
church’s minister, Rev. Clementa Pinckney for nearly an hour of the
prayer meeting before he carried out his terrorist attack. (Pinckney
was also a long time state senator.) Before the bullets stopped flying,
nine African American church members perished and others were
traumatized by the attack. Roof would later tell police that he “almost
didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him.”
I doubt that Roof whose white supremacists views drove him to target Mother Emanuel Church knew the deep history of the church. From
his own accounts, we know that he chose historic Charleston because it
once had the highest radio of blacks to whites in the country. He
probably never heard of Denmark Vesey.
Vesey is one of Emanuel’s founders and in 1822 organized a slave
revolt. The revolt was exposed when a couple of members of the church
shared the plot with authorities before it could be carried out. Vesey
and 34 others were executed for the revolt and the original church was
burned to the ground. For decades, the congregation was forced to go
underground but remained unwavering in its desire to be free and proud
citizens of Charleston. Emanuel AME was a key institution for
organizing during the Civil Rights Movement.
Emanuel AME Church massacre is another log on the bonfire of white
supremacy. And while some members of the church have already forgiven
Roof for his terrorist actions, there are others in Charleston who will
be moved by the acts of resistance of a proud and determined Vesey some
200 years ago.
In a state that
seceded the Union because of its love for white rule over slavery,
South Carolina has continuously challenged the full citizenship and
participation of its black residents. Roof’s actions are an extension
of South Carolina’s past and current history of white supremacy.
South Caroliners and other fair minded people must fight for the
removal of the Confederate flag as the official state flag. They have
endured the flapping of the Confederate flag in their faces as they
continue the fight for the right to vote, to get access to health care
or to have decent housing. The flag is a symbolic inspiration to white
supremacists to continue their fight for domination.
Anti-Racist Collective (ARC) is a local group of white activists who
organize around issues of racism. In its statement, ARC reminds us that
the Charleston tragedy “is
not just the extremists, but something infused into media, criminal
justice, education, and countless other mainstream institutions” and
that it didn’t happen in a vacuum but “within the context of hundreds
of years of lynchings, mass deaths, and violence towards black people
in our society.”
agree with ARC’s call for “white people to end their silence and raise
their voices against the continued legacy of violence that our
community perpetuates against communities of color.” White allies need
to step up the work among white people. The fact that Roof is not some
old left-over from the Civil Rights days suggests that intensified
anti-racist work needs to be done with the current generation of young
cannot happen in cases like this unless there is admission of wrong
doing by all involved and that real justice for the victims prevails.
True healing for centuries of hate and racism means a complete
transformation of the racist institutions that perpetuate white
country cannot survive when one sector of the society is violently
restricted from attaining their human and civil rights. History has
shown us that where there’s repression, there will always be resistance.
The spirit of Denmark Vesey has been unleashed.