EDITORIAL: What We Can Do to Move Forward From Charleston

Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson Via Facebook and Getty Images
Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson (Photos via Facebook and Getty Images)

First and foremost, all of us at Good Black News are heartbroken over the loss of the nine precious lives taken this week by senseless, hateful murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and our sympathies and prayers go out to the families and loved ones most acutely affected by this domestic terrorism.  Even though you may already know the names of the unintended martyrs, they bear repeating, and often, so we never forget: Rev. Clementa PinckneyCynthia HurdSusie Jackson, Tywanza SandersSharonda Coleman-SingletonDaniel L. SimmonsEthel Lee LanceMyra Thompson, and Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor.

We call them martyrs because they are now part of the unfortunately long lineage of named and unnamed African-Americans subjected to racially-motivated violence in the United States.  From enslaved persons who died on slave ships in the Middle Passage, to persons enslaved in the colonies, to Reconstruction, to the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights movement and up through today, the pattern is plain: you are black, you are hated, your life doesn’t matter, you die violently.

I have spent a lot of time this past week reading and watching coverage of this national tragedy, not only to gather as much information as possible, but also to process and attempt to think of the right words to share on how to move forward in a positive manner, as that is overriding philosophy and mission of Good Black News.  I do think it is crucial first, however, to talk about WHERE this happened, HOW it happened and WHY it happened.

South Carolina State Capitol Building (top left); Mammy magnets for sale to Charleston tourists (top right); bumper sticker souvenir (bottom)
South Carolina State Capitol Building (top left); Mammy magnets for sale to Charleston tourists (top right); bumper sticker souvenir (bottom)

As everyone knows by now, South Carolina so proudly claims its antebellum history that the Confederate flag still flies on its State Capitol building.  The battle at Fort Sumpter in 1861, right outside of Charleston, which occurred not long after South Carolina seceded from the Union, set off the Civil War.  Tourist shops in Charleston casually sell merchandise such as mammy magnets and confederate bumper stickers, which are symbols of racial oppression to my eyes, but symbols of “the good ol’ days” to others.

The other “where” in this situation is specifically the Emanuel AME Church.  The history of this church is steeped in the fight for African-Americans to create their own place of worship and the freedom to express their humanity.  One of the church founders, Denmark Vesey, attempted in 1822 to organize a slave rebellion from this space, which, although thwarted, created mass hysteria among the slave owners in the Carolinas and lead to the church being burned.  It has been rebuilt several times and stands as a consistent symbol of black pride, resistance and fortitude.  So the choice of this place for this action makes it clear this was a targeted, racially-motivated attack.

CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 18:  People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 18: People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, in the spirit of fellowship, church members welcomed Dylann Roof, the unfamiliar stranger who would become their assassin, to join and participate in their bible study.  He took advantage of their compassion and open hearts to forward a racist agenda that is centuries-old and still pervasive in the DNA of this country, and particularly so in South Carolina and the South.  In the 1960s, people didn’t call the killers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama “mentally insane.”  They called them what they were – Klan members and/or racists.  So regardless of whether or not Roof has mental problems, his racism and desire for racial supremacy is the primary motivation behind his actions.

So, clearly knowing all of that, what are some positive, actionable ways we can move forward as a nation, in our communities and in our personal lives from this horrific event?

  1. Petition/protest/vote for removals of all symbols of oppression and hate from government buildings, streets, tourist centers and shops.
  2. Contribute to the donation fund set up for the families of the victims of the Emanuel AME shootings.
  3. Support/join organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU or the National Urban League, that are dedicated to protesting racial injustice and empowering minorities.
  4. Educate all children of all colors and creeds about the racial history of the United States from slavery to the present and call it what it is. Visit civil rights museums.  Read, know and learn the history.   Just as Jewish peoples around the world make sure each generation “never forgets” the Holocaust – so should we never forget about American racial injustice.
  5. Keep calling out and protesting current injustices – we need to keep filming and reporting and being sources for unjust police actions, racial disparities in the workplace and even in our personal conversations.  Let’s not be Roof’s friend Joseph Meek Jr.,who now regrets not checking his friend more thoroughly about his racist vitriol.
  6. Love. Find forgiveness in our hearts just as the family members of several of the victims are doing for the assailant.  Meeting hate with hate solves nothing.

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, Good Black News Founder and Editor-in-Chief

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