Depayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Celementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.
These are the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, Wednesday, June 17.
Nine people. Nine African Americans. Murdered by a white man. Dylann Roof opened fire after apparently announcing the need to stop African Americans from raping “our” women and taking over the country.
As the story has been unfolding in the media, Dylann Roof is being presented as someone with a troubled mind and altercations in the past. Despite the fact that Roof blatantly targeted African Americans in an historical Black church, and authorities are calling his acts a hate crime, Roof is still being presented as some sort of wounded individual. Wounded by mental illness or a dark past. And, the most obvious words are not being stated by the authorities, that this is an act of racism. That Roof acted out of hatred for Black people. To call it what it is would require examining why. And examining why would lead to acknowledging that racism is still very present in the United States and that, according to this country, Black lives, in fact, do not matter.
Labeling Roof’s act a hate crime is also a very purposeful choice of words, South Carolina does not have any laws preventing or punishing hate crimes. As far as the state of South Carolina is considered, from a legal standpoint, Dylann Roof committed murder. Not murder prompted by hate or racism, just murder.
Roof’s arrest is being compared, by some, to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (just to name two). Brown and Garner were brutally murdered by police officers despite the fact that both were unarmed and begged for their lives. Brown asked why he was being shot and Garner, who was choked to death, declared his inability to breathe. The recent death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore, who was killed while in police custody, is another example of how Black lives are taken by the people who are supposedly intended to protect and serve. Meanwhile, Dylann Roof was escorted to a police car wearing a bullet proof vest – for his protection.
Let us not forget Jonathan Ferrell. Ferrell, a young Black man, was killed by police in Charlotte, NC, not far from where Dylann Roof was arrested. Ferrell had crashed his car and after a white home owner would not assist him and rather called police, Ferrell was shot multiple times, and killed as he ran towards police disoriented and seeking assistance.
When will we, as a nation, acknowledge that racism is still very much a part of the United States experience? Will we? What if Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s bombing of the Boston Marathon had not been considered an act of terrorism? What if their attack had been referred to simply as a hate crime or as murder?
To call Roof’s attack an act of terrorism would mean involving the federal government. And involving the federal government would require some deeper analysis. It would require more attention, long drawn out attention that would last throughout the trial and sentencing. By keeping Roof’s actions locally based, this story can die in the mainstream media. The media can abandon it the second Kim Kardashian bats an eyelash or Brad Pitt takes a shit.
The terrorism enacted by Roof against Depayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Celementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson, as well as the entire Black community, needs attention. It is up to us to keep calling out the names of those killed by the terrorist actions of Dylann Roof, the police, and the United States government. Senators, governors, the president – they can all talk about how sorrowful they are. They can all talk about gun control. They talk and talk. What they do not do is acknowledge the terrorism that is racism. They do not act.
Dylan Roof is 21. If racism were truly over, a 21 year-old would not sport confederate flags and think he has the right – the duty – to kill Black people.
Dylan Roof just did what he saw authorities doing. This country is systemically removing Black people from their homes, keeping them poor, and killing them. To call Roof a terrorist is absolutely what he is. To call this country terrorist is true too.
Let us not forget:
Rumain Brisbon, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Cochran, Jordan Baker, Miriam Carey, Jonathan Ferrell, Kimani Gray, Freddie Grey, Chavis Carter, Kendrec McDade, Shereese Francis, Wendell Allen, Alonzo Ashley, Aiyana Jones, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, the list goes on.
And because there is already so much literal white washing of the terrorist attack and attention being given to Roof and his personal life , let us remember who was killed:
Depayne Middleton Doctor – Retired, 49 year-old mother of four.
Cynthia Hurd – Regional Library Manager for St. Andrews Regional Library.
Susie Jackson – 87 year-old member of the church.
Ethel Lance- Cousin of Susie Jackson, 70 year-old retiree.
The Rev. Celementa Pinckney – Emanuel AME Church’s pastor and a state senator. He has a long history of outreach with the Black community.
Tywanza Sanders – 26 year-old who was shot when trying to protect a family member. He recently graduated from Allen University.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr. – 74 year-old pastor at Emanuel AME and also a graduate of Allen University.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton – She was a mother of three, reverend, and high school track coach.
Myra Thompson – 59 year-old, and the third pastor of Emanuel AME.
Sources: The Root, CNN, Think Progress, Gawker