A Day and a Year Since the Charleston Shooting

CW: Charleston shooting, Emanuel AME’s history, racism & murder.

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I’m going to repeat one of the things I said in the last post.

This act by Dylann Roof was an act of terror as well as a hate crime and an action taken by a sick person.

These beautiful human beings – Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Depayne Middleton Doctor, Reverend Daniel L. Simmons, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lee Lance – were kind enough to allow a young white man to join a small Bible study group held for their black congregation. In return, this young white man accused them of “raping our women” (note that 6 of the victims were women above the age of 45; 3 were grandmothers) and “taking over our country” – then shot at people attending, killing 9, before turning the gun on himself only to discover he had exhausted his ammunition.

According to survivors, the first person he aimed at was 87-yr-old Susie Jackson. 87 years old. A respected and beloved elder whose nephew, Tywanza Sanders, attempted to talk the shooter down. Mr. Sanders was shot when he threw his body in the way of the first bullet, which was meant for Mrs. Jackson.

Why would someone who was just sick, or even intending to perform a hate crime, specifically target the oldest woman there first?

Because, of course, Roof’s intention was never to just kill people. His intent was to terrify the congregation, with a specific political and social aim of trying to undermine the church.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, otherwise known as Mother Emanuel, is the oldest black congregation in the south and has rebuilt itself quite a few times since being founded in 1816 (though the movement on which it is based was founded in 1787, after Richard Allen and other black Methodists rejected the church in Philadelphia due to racist treatment). The church itself has suffered many acts of terror in its history – for instance, after Denmark Vesey, a leader in the church in the 1820s, was hung for supposedly organizing a revolt of enslaved people that was scheduled to occur on June 16th or 17th of 1822, the whites of Charleston burned the original Emanuel AME building and forced many of the leaders of church out of the state.

There is some theory that Roof chose the day he chose to echo this same event. The fact that five black churches were burned within a *week* of the shooting underlines this unpleasantly. Terrorists are known to prefer anniversaries of other successful attempts as a form of symbolism. (But then again, so are governments.) Sick people… not so much. Even hate crimes on one or two individuals don’t follow that pattern. Those are most often crimes of opportunity.

We really need to start recognizing that domestic terrorism is a thing, and that people of color and people in the LGBT community are the most likely targets.

We need to acknowledge that America has had a *history* of terrorist activity.

Let’s start focusing the war on terror on the hate we generate and perpetuate.

Let’s look in the mirror, folks.

The Charleston and Orlando victims, survivors, and their families are owed that.