Recall the 16th Street Church bombing, an act of white supremacist terror which occurred at an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday, September 15, 1963. Four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted over two dozen sticks of dynamite with a timing device beneath the front steps of the church. The terror attack killed four black girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. This was an act of intimidation, meant to stifle organizing efforts for the Civil Rights Movement which the Klan saw as a threat to the legacy of white hegemony in the South.
Fast forward to 2015. Black America is in all too familiar circumstances with racist vigilante terror still inflicting harm on our communities. The Charleston Massacre echoed this when a 21 year-old white supremacist named Dylann Roof murdered 9 African Americans at an evening Bible study. This act of white terror took place last Wednesday night, June 17th at the Emanuel AME church; a historic site for the black community of Charleston where in 1822, Denmark Vesey (one of the Emanuel AME church founders) was captured by slave authorities for his plan to organize a slave revolt. Clearly the location of this act of overt terrorism was no coincidence.
Roof was of a white supremacist cadre, praising in his racially charged manifesto the barbaric regime of Rhodesia, a small white autocratic state in Africa that sought to rule over the majority African population with terror and fear. Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, fell as a result of militant struggle waged by Robert Mugabe and other African leaders who refused to be ruled by white supremacy. According to Roof’s disgusting ideology, white power has become weak and the only remedy is a fascist brand of violence and terror, taking depraved and barbarous action in the hopes of inciting a race war.
Since the murder of Trayvon Martin by racist vigilante George Zimmerman, the Black Liberation Movement has grown. The death of Mike Brown at the hands of killer cop Darren Wilson sparked the Ferguson Uprising and ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, with nationwide protests challenging the white supremacist police state. The murder of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department turned into another rebellion with the people and youth of Baltimore facing down riot cops and even the National Guard, forcing state officials to press charges against the 6 killer cops.
We've even seen President Obama introduce politically expedient, yet weak, legislation to combat police militarization, as well as other local and state legislatures seeking to mandate body cameras on police officers. But that has not been enough to deter white supremacy and police terror in their efforts to challenge the Black Liberation Movement.
It was Huey Newton who said,
"Black men and women who refuse to live under oppression are dangerous to white society because they become symbols of hope to their brothers and sisters, inspiring them to follow their example".
Quite clearly, our movement for black liberation has elicited a dangerous response from white supremacy, with foot soldiers like Dylann Roof doing what they can to halt our advancement. And it is clear to see why. White supremacy doesn't like to be challenged.
Our movement has grown and it seeks to eradicate white supremacy to an afterthought in history. However this process doesn't occur without a struggle as we have seen. The forces against us wish to see us crawl up in fear.
But we won't.
We must continue to build up our own organizations which are not only capable of fighting for our communities, but protecting them as well.
With every action there is a reaction. With the action of state-sanctioned violence on black communities, there has been a reaction from the oppressed who are more readily resisting and fighting back. As our movement gains steam and takes action, white supremacy responds with terror to halt our efforts.
Racist vigilantism is a byproduct of state sanctioned violence and oppression, in which racist vigilantes carry out the interests of the ruling class, terrorizing Black America for the sake of maintaining the existing order. Racist vigilantes are representative of a more reactionary sector of a ruling class that wishes to halt the advancements of the Black Liberation Movement. This is why police terror and racist vigilantism are so intertwined.
So the question then becomes: what will our reaction to the Charleston Massacre be as a movement?
The short answer is we cannot stop. We must continue to resist and continue to fight. We must remember the names of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson, the 9 African Americans slain by Roof. Their deaths must act as a reminder that the enemy is real, they must inspire us to keep fighting, harder than ever.
If our people cannot feel safe in church, then where can we feel safe? If black people in this country cannot be in a place of worship without fear of white supremacy harming us, then quite frankly we need to work harder to dismantle it.
White terrorists like Roof are bred by a white supremacist society, they aren't disconnected from it. They reflect the evil in this country that still sees black life as worthless and without meaning. But we know our lives have meaning. We know the 9 black lives stolen by Roof like a thief in the night had meaning. Personally, I'm exhausted trying to convince those in power and broader White America of our value and that our lives matter. The only thing left to do is continue to get out there, in the streets, and make them see. White supremacy must be shown a quick death for Black America to live freely.
Let's see it through.