Nine black people massacred in a church by a white supremacist, who once posed wearing clothing with the apartheid era flag of South Africa and Rhodesia emblazoned upon. He deliberately kept one person alive, so they could bear witness to the terror he had inflicted. A child played dead, saving her life.
By most measures this was an act of terror, designed to reverberate in US society. The Church in Charleston is where Martin Luther King had once spoken. This was more than a hate crime. It was a message, in line with political and social white supremacism.
This was an act of terrorism.
The arguments on twitter over defining this as such have descended into petty insults for some, bogged down with dictionary screenshots. We need to recognise racism when it becomes politically demonstrated in violence, is so much more than just hate.
Whether police brutality at a teenage swimming pool party, police shooting unarmed men repeatedly, we see what institutionalised power can get away with. Being White is the best tailoring to be clothed in – the arbitrary birth suit of privilege in western society ready made to measure. It would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that.
We can be forgiven for thinking rather than nearing Martin Luther King’s dream, it is closer to a nightmare. Despite the grief and emotion, the civil rights movement has made a huge stride in getting there in the last fifty or so years. Now is not the time to give up, to be full of recriminations. Where bitter words are traded and fault lines in society snap – just the way Roof wanted in the wake of his massacre.
President Obama mentioned the church killing does not happen like this in other developed nations. Yet, recall the attempt by the Copenhagen cafe Islamist shooter trying to enter a synagogue – foiled by someone at the door who paid with their life. Or in Israel where this week the Church of the loaves and fishes (where the miracle is claimed to have occurred) burnt to the ground – with a Hebrew prayer sprayed on the side against false gods.
The hatred is real and aimed at people by race or creed – and sometimes both. Political extremists are using violence to intimidate while we are being played on by various narratives in the media and blogosphere, whether we know it or not. Thus ever has it been.
Today I am going to the British Humanist Conference in Bristol. Meeting with like minded people in celebration of ideas, discussion, and life. I cannot help but think the people at the church were doing the same. It is these things that make us human.
Do not let the memory of those nine people count for nothing. We must face down the hate, and the prejudice we are all capable of. Some dreams are too important not to live for.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog