Pastor Clementa Pinckney (SC state Senator)
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
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.