Charleston Massacre: Reminder Why Race still matters

Charleston Massacre: Reminder Why Race still matters June 18, 2015

Nine black people are dead in Charleston, killed by Dylann Storm Roof, a white gunman.


(Image via Twitter)
(Image via Twitter)

This appears to be a hate crime and the authorities are investigating it as such.

“We believe this is a hate crime; that is how we are investigating it,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a dawn news conference.

So… can we still have the conversation on what black is again? Seriously. I mean right now, because for some reason I seem to understand it with no level of ambiguity.

Blackness is having to explain to your children why it might not be safe for them to go to church in America, because a white gunman in the South (or a bomber in the North) might want to kill them. All due to their complexion. Bonus- you get to do so, while holding back the tears when they ask you – why.

It’s the blank look you have to project when your white coworker and colleague tells you to not jump to conclusions, because there’s no proof that this “lone wolf’s” crime was motivated by race.

Its listening to the same colleague dismissing the idea that white culture might play a factor in this conversation, yet when black children get loud they condemn an entire race. Its listening to the callous and disingenuous question of “where was their god”


Black is reading the story and being angry at Rachel Dolezal for possibly faking hate crimes, when real ones like this still happen.

No, we don’t know all the facts yet, true, but this looks and feels damned familiar.

A woman who survived says the gunman told her he was letting her live so that she could tell people what happened, Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott told CNN. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members.

Those are the actions of a terrorist.

Premeditated murder. Hate was the motivation. He is a criminal. Dare I even call him racist yet, or will you tell me “it’s too soon”? Can we talk about the environment that fosters the hate that hate made before we invariably shift the conversation to mental illness and gun control?

History may not repeat itself, but it sure has the ugliest tendency to rhyme.  I can’t think of the word “trigger” in this case and not think…

He shot them in church.That’s cold blooded.

This particular congregation, established in 1816, is one of the oldest African American churches in the United States. It was investigated as part of the planned Denmark Vesey slave revolt – so this hits close to home for black believers and non-believers alike. The church was nearly burned to the ground, and then rebuilt in 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. Its symbolic, so the attack will be internalized as such. We may never know whether he chose the church because of its significance,  or whether it was merely convenient.

It almost doesn’t matter.

(Image via Calvin.Webster.CC)
(Image via Calvin.Webster.CC)

Black is reading that and being historically connected to that story, even though your ancestors might’ve been hundreds of miles away. There is no question what color these human beings were – six black women and three black men, assassinated after a white man, who attended the prayer service for an hour, opened fire.

Killer. Savage. Murderer.

Anger. Sorrow. Despair. Pain and grief for the fallen.

This is what it feels like to be black, wondering how soon the national discussion will shift to something else while families and a community still mourns.

During the Rachel Dolezal scandal, we had the opportunity to toy with the idea of dismantling race as a social construct. But if we do so, how can we call this very specific hate crime what it is? How do we call out racism for what it is? Sometimes labels, no matter how uncomfortable they make us, are necessary in defining who we are, describing our heritage, describing our features, detailing our differences, and in this case – as a way of identifying the subject of someone’s hate.

Yes, race still matters.


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