Charleston’s Loss is Heaven’s Gain

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Pastor Clementa Pinckney (SC state Senator)

Tywanza Sanders

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Myra Thompson

Ethel Lance

Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

On Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the nine people named above paid the ultimate price for the ongoing climate of hatred born of racism and bigotry that exists in the United States of America.  My faith tells me that the angels in heaven rejoiced as God welcomed these Saints home.

But what of the perpetrators of this heinous crime — the crime of killing innocent people in a House of Worship. Presently, the perpetrators are hiding behind the trigger man, a #WhiteRacistTerrorist, Dylann Storm Roof.  According to witnesses, as Dylann Storm Roof repeatedly shot nine people who had gathered at “Mother Emanuel” church to study God’s word, he uttered the following words: “I have to do it. You (Blacks) rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. You have to go.”  Surely those who, by word or deed, instigated the murder of nine (9) innocent people –simply because they were Black — will someday be held accountable.
It has been suggested that Dylann Roof visited dark spaces on the Internet where he was, possibly, radicalized.  It occurs to me that one would not need to visit dark spaces on the Internet to be bombarded with racist propaganda.  One need only listen to our politicians, pundits, faux news reporters and commentators; and, yes, those in leadership in this country to hear a constant stream of inflammatory speech.

Despite the growing number of White women (the girl next door as well as high-profile women) who choose to date and marry Black men, a cursory search of the WEB reveals links to modern-day tales of Emmett Till skulking around, looking to rape delicate White virgins. To more clearly understand the fallacy that “You (Black men) rape our women,” therefore you must die; please click Table 43 of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States to see a breakdown of arrests for forcible rape by race.  One rapist, whether Black or White, is one too many; however, the idea that Black men must be killed to protect White women is ludicrous. As is the idea that White women will not have to fear being raped if Black men are wiped off the face of the earth.  Yet, the Emmett Till myth is alive and well on the WEB.  And, Dylann Roof did not need a password to access a secret “dark space” on the WEB to read this myth.  It pops up on all the search engines.

Dylan Roof showed the same hatred for the six women participating in Bible Study at “Mother Emanuel” church as he exhibited towards the men.  Perhaps our Men and Women in Blue taught him that.  Perhaps the images of California Highway Patrolman, Daniel Andrew, straddling and repeatedly punching a 51 year-old Black woman in the face taught Dylann that Black women must be subdued like Black men because they are just as dangerous. Or, maybe Officer Casebolt’s impressive takedown of a  bikini clad 15 year-old girl inspired Roof to show no mercy. Perhaps, Dylann Roof determined that all Black women are “angry,” per the media’s portrayal of First Lady Michelle Obama; and, therefore, must go.

Neither did Dylann Roof show any sympathy for the children in attendance at “Mother Emanuel’s” Wednesday night Bible Study.  One child survived because she played dead.  The death of Tamir Rice has taught us that our children must be wise beyond their years if they are to survive in the United States.  They cannot afford the luxury of losing themselves in a world of fantasy.  They must, instead, be aware of what is happening around them at all times.  Failure to do so could result in their death.  And, the debate over Tamir Rice’s’s culpability for his own death reinforces the view that Blacks, from the cradle to the grave, are bad and deserve what they get.

Words matter.  The words that Dylann Roof uttered to justify killing nine people matter. “I have to do it. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. You have to go.”  The words that Dylann Roof heard from those around him, from the people he “hung out with,” from the media, from politicians, hungry for power, matter. “We have to take our country back,” goes the popular refrain. Just as it is a crime to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater, it should be against the law to use words that endanger others.  One politician posted a bullseye map targeting 20 opponents who needed to be “taken out.”  Words matter.

Words that defame an entire race of people matter.  The same thirst for power that resulted in the rally cry, “Let’s take our country back,” also led to the rebirth and retelling of the story that all Black people want “something for nothing,” and they do not want to work.The reality is that the history of Blacks in this country is one of many years of  working hard “for nothing,” except a shared log cabin, and minimal food and clothing.  And, ironically, Dylann Roof’s victims were all educated, employed, contributing members of society, while Roof is an unemployed, drug using high school dropout.  To be clear, a lack of employment is not a statement of character or worthiness. Neither is the need for assistance.

Words that defame an entire race of people matter when they are uttered from high places.  That is especially true in a segregated society, as is the case in many areas of the United States, because opinions are formed based on what others say.  When Black protesters are called “thugs” and false rumors are spread that Black gangs are targeting the police; while Biker gang members who kill nine people in a “brawl” in Texas are not called “thugs,” it matters.  Dylann Roof was, apparently, surprised at how nice the people were at Emanuel AME Church.  The people he encountered did not fit the profile, but Roof could not process that truth.  Not every young Black male wearing a gray hoodie is a criminal. Neither is every young White male, sporting a Beatles haircut, harmless.

Just as words matter, so do actions.  The act of giving any flag precedence over a state’s flag matters.  The act of giving any flag precedence over the United States Flag matters. The act of defending the placement of a flag of a defeated rebellious army on state grounds in such a way that it cannot be lowered below the State Flag and the United States Flag is unconscionable.  In such a climate, Dylann Storm Roof grew to believe that he had a duty to kill nine Black Americans.


RAMS with #Handsup push Joe Scarborough into a tailspin


Prior to yesterday’s game between the Saint Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders, several Rams offensive players entered the stadium with their hands up, mimicking the stance that some witnesses claim #MichaelBrown adopted prior to being fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson.

This morning, Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe” was on a rant.   He questioned how the Saint Louis Rams ( by implication, anyone) would choose to make a hero out of #Michael Brown who was clearly a “thug.”  It seems to me that  #MichaelBrown would have needed to be arrested, charged with a crime and convicted before one could say, with any authority, that #MichaelBrown was a “thug.”  Officer Wilson denied #MichaelBrown the right of a fair trial, so the world will never know if #MichaelBrown would have been found guilty of robbing a store and assaulting a police officer.  #MichaelBrown’s side of the story has been forever silenced.  One cannot say that the Rams football players did or did not come onto the field with #Handsup because they saw #MichaelBrown as a hero.  Perhaps, they simply saw a black teenager denied due process under the law.  Although I am not a lawyer, it is my understanding that even hardened criminals, in this country, should be accorded certain rights and protections.

Joe Scarborough ended his rant by saying that while most people will not say it publicly, 95% of people agree with him. I’m tempted to use my mother’s words — “if 95% of the people jumped off a bridge would you join them”? –but I won’t.  Instead, I will say that things often look different from a distance.

In 1967 Muhammad Ali opposed the Vietnam War and refused to be inducted into the United States Army on religious grounds.  Muhammad Ali claimed a religious exemption because he is a Muslim. Ali was initially convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to prison, fined and banned from boxing.  I would venture to say that 98% of Americans (including many in the largely Christian African-American population) agreed with the government’s harsh treatment of Ali. After all, he was not a Christian.  He was not even a Quaker.  So, who was he to refuse to serve in the military?  However, after reviewing the cascade of body bags, the dark days of anti-war protests (especially, the Kent State Massacre), and, finally, the Pentagon Papers; public opinions changed, as did government policy. I think Joe Scarborough would be hard-pressed to find anyone, looking back, who does not respect Ali for acting according to his conscience.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, two Black American Olympic medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, stood on a podium, bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air,  giving the Black Power salute during the playing of the National Anthen.  This gesture of solidarity with Black Americans who were fighting for equality back home in the United States cost these athletes dearly. Millions of white Americans were offended by this act.  These two athletes could have followed the example of the great Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany and greatly offended, I’m sure, Adolph Hitler by doing so.  Jesse Owens made no outward sign or gesture to show how he felt about racism or the fact that Blacks and Jews were treated differently (i.e., Hitler sought to exclude them from the games).  Jesse Owens’ only response to Hitler’s claim of Aryan supremacy was to debunk the theory of Aryan superiority on the track.  Reportedly, Jesse Owens did not receive the same congratulations from President Roosevelt as was accorded other American athletes returning home from the Olympics.  Still, there is no record of Owens acting to draw attention to the his reality.

It seems to me that the times dictate ones response to perceived racism.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos chose to bow their heads in acknowledgement of the Star Spangled Banner, while raising their fists in the popular Black Power Salute.  They knew Jesse Owens.  They must have known the racism he encountered.  They certainly must have experienced racism in their own lives and understood the struggles of Black Americans who were not standing there with them on the podium.  As a young college student in 1968, I appreciated the internal struggles that Smith and Carlos must have experienced — wanting to support the struggle for racial equality at home while pursuing their quest for the gold.  They did not burn any buildings or commit any crimes, but they gave us a sign that we recognized.  Their fists let us know that they cared.

It seems to me that the Saint Louis Rams players are standing on broad shoulders.  Joe Scarborough and 95% of his viewers may be offended.  This is not the first time that a lot of people were offended.  It will not be the last.  The majority can be wrong.  One’s conscience cannot be dictated by majority vote.  An act of conscience must be the result of one’s moral compass.  Others may not understand until they look back from a distance.

President Obama Addressed the UN Security Council

I was depressed after listening to the President’s speech to the UN Security Council. While I understand that people with machetes, who aren’t afraid to use them, are a threat to all. An enlightened society where some can openly carry and shoot to kill unarmed Black men / women seems a more immediate threat to me and mine. So, because the President has been unable to put forth a plan to hold American citizens accountable for violence against other American citizens whom God created as a different race, because the President has been unable to formulate a plan to secure the safety (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) for the ethnic / racial minority in these United States of America; his words were tepid tea.

The President did mention Ferguson, Missouri as proof that he is aware that the United States of America has internal problems. However, he was unable to explain how our “enlightened” nation deals with our internal problems. Rather, it appeared that President Obama mentioned #Ferguson as a way of cutting off criticism “at the pass” from other countries.

Maybe the President’s rhetorical device worked with foreign leaders from around the globe; but, here, on “The Homeland,” it fell short. On the same day the President made an historical speech to the UN Security Council (meeting for only the 6th time at the Head of State level in history); Americans learned that an Ohio grand jury decided not to charge police officers for fatally shooting a Black man for shopping in a Walmart store while carrying a pellet gun he had picked up from the Walmart shelves.

Since the killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, there appears to be a pattern of shooting unarmed Black men, with impunity, in this country. Perhaps these Black men are standing in for President Obama, for whom racist White Americans carry boundless hatred. Whatever the reason, the shooters of unarmed Black men, are generally cleared and deemed to have re-acted appropriately to a perceived threat of violence. The United States has long had a history of arresting Black men for DWB (driving while Black). Now, Black men can be legally shot dead for WalkingWhileBlack, #TrayvonMartin and #MichaelBrown, ShoppingWhileBlack, #JohnCrawford; or WorkingWhileBlack #EricGarner, choked on the street in New York for peddling cigarettes (possibly working at the only job available to him).

So, while I am sickened to see video of two American journalists beheaded by terrorists on the other side of the world, and equally sickened at descriptions of women and girls being abducted, raped, murdered or forced into marriage; I was depressed by the President’s speech to the UN Security Council. I was depressed because it appeared that the President only invoked #Ferguson Missouri as a preemptive strike against those who would dare criticize these United States, or “The Homeland,” as he now calls it.

When President Obama ran for office, he assured us that he could pat his head and rub his stomach at the same time. I need President Obama to recognize the threat faced by American citizens on “The Homeland” and come up with a plan to neutralize the threat. And, I need him to know that a mentoring program to show our young men how to pull themselves up by their boot straps will not neutralize or solve the problems faced by minorities in this country as racial minorities are not being killed by their boot straps.

I need President Obama to turn a portion of his considerable intelligence to protecting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of Black men and women in this country. I need the President to convene great leaders/thinkers in this country, just as he convened the Heads of State of the UN Security Council, to mobilize and activate plans to neutralize the internal threats to American citizens. Perhaps, then the United States will be able to speak to others from a position of moral authority.