Perhaps the Confederate flag in South Carolina will fly at half mast now a damaged excuse for a human being named Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a South Carolina Church. All reports indicate that Roof sought kill black people so this was not a random act of murder – this was an act of terrorism. And this latter day Neanderthal monster reminds us that American terrorism directed against black people is a horrific and very real part of the history of this country.
Consider the irony in the fact that the site of the murders, Emanuel AME Church, was founded by Denmark Vesey who had plotted an extensive slave revolt which failed in 1822. After Denmark Vesey as executed, white South Carolinians burned the Emanuel AME Church to the ground and actually banned all black churches in the state in 1834. The history of Emanuel AME Church is soaked in blood and scarred by the fires of hatred and bigotry.
And the history of Emanuel AME Church is an important reminder as we consider the current atrocity at that church. Terror against black people has been a constant theme in this country starting with the Barbadian Slave Codes which were then exported to the American colonies, beginning with South Carolina.
The Slave Codes were created to impose absolute white domination over black slaves, protect against slave revolts and safeguard the significant financial investment that slaves represented. Under the Slave Codes there were literally no limits to the violence and savagery that could be suffered by black Americans. Indeed, it can be argued that Slave Codes injected the virus of racist violence and terrorism that still runs through the veins of America.
There should be no doubt that the Slave Codes begat Jim Crow which begat wholesale lynching which begat legally sanctioned terrorism to confront the civil rights movement. Lest one think that this virus is confined to the former Confederate States of America it should be clear that New York City and Boston police worked closely with slave catchers and the state of Indiana had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership of any state in the history of this country.
Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the mobs that confronted the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas and James Meredith at the University of Mississippi as well as Louise Day Hicks who encouraged the attacks on school buses carrying black children in Boston. Dylann Roof is a direct descendant of the Klansmen and the “ordinary citizens” who organized and participated in the lynching of thousands of black men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dylann Roof is a blood relative of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and he belongs to the same family as the scores of police officers who have shot and killed black men, women and children without cause, simply because they were black men, women and children.
We should all be saddened by the carnage in Charleston. But we should not be shocked. Terrorism directed against black Americans is part of American history.
And we should certainly not be shocked by Dylann Roof’s actions – after all, he is an American. And there can be no cure for the disease of racial terrorism in this country until we are willing to accept that the illness exists. It is the first step to recovery.