Friday, June 19, 2015

The Charleston Massacre, the Legacy of the Confederacy, and the Ongoing Hegemony of Modern White Supremacy in the United States

We Were Never Meant to Survive: A Response to the Attack in Charleston
Friday, 19 June 2015
by Alicia Garza, Truthout | Op-Ed 

A mourner grieves during a prayer vigil at the Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Nine people were murdered Wednesday night at another historic black church in this city’s downtown. (Travis Dove/The New York Times)

Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina, an act of terrorism was committed against a group of Black people who gathered in prayer. The church, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was a site of slave rebellions as far back as 1822 and one of the oldest Black churches in the country.

Our hearts and our prayers are with the families and communities of those who were needlessly killed.

Yesterday, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Storm Roof was arrested alive, suspected to be the gunman in this brutal and horrific tragedy. Roof went to the church and asked specifically for the pastor. He prayed with the congregation, and then after about an hour, he rose and said,

"I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."

In the days following this one, many in the media will portray Roof as a mentally ill gunman with a troubled past who committed an isolated crime against an unsuspecting group of Black people. Facebook photos show Roof wearing a jacket with patches bearing the flag of apartheid South Africa. However, we at #BlackLivesMatter would assert that this is not, in fact, an isolated incident, but just one incident in a pattern of violence enacted against Black people in this country and around the world.

The real question we should be asking is: Who taught Roof to hate Black people, enough to kill nine of us, in a sanctuary? And can we really say that he is the only one?

The honest answer to the above question is that this country has never valued Black people - even though Black people have been of extreme value for this country.

Where are the calls for accountability for those who taught a young white man to harbor such a serious hatred for Black people? Where is the accountability for a nation that has racism in its very DNA?

We were never meant to survive. We were stolen from our families and our land, brought to this country in the bottoms of boats, chained together like animals. We were forced to work for, nurture and nourish, and build a country that never truly considered us human and still refuses to honor our humanity. The founding documents of this country designate us as only three-fifths of a human being. When we dared (and dare) to reclaim our humanity, we were (and are) beaten, lashed, hung from trees, limbs cut off, set on fire, shot and raped. This isn't something that happened in the past. This is still happening to Black people in 2015. In fact, just a few months ago, Otis Byrd was found lynched, hanging from a tree outside of Jackson, Mississippi.

We were never meant to survive. We argue that Roof's actions are not isolated, are not easily and dismissively attributed to mental illness but instead are reflections of a disease that plagues this country - racism. And we argue that until we grapple, as a nation, with the racist violence that infects this country, we will only see such acts increase.

Roof's words remind us that Black people in this country cannot consider ourselves safe anywhere. We cannot expect protection from the police. We cannot expect to be safe in swimming pools, in churches, in stores, on buses, in our communities or even in our homes. Black children are not safe. And we cannot consider ourselves safe from the daily trauma of witnessing the violence exacted against our communities. In this case, a young Black girl played dead underneath her grandmother's dead body in order to stay alive. Roof left one woman alive, telling her that he wanted her to tell the story of what happened that night.

The truth that needs to be told is that even our nation's first Black President has yet to face the fact that violence against Black people is an epidemic of epic proportions. As the demographics of this country shift to that of majority people of color, there exists both a rational and irrational fear that the very people who have and continue to bear the brunt of such blatant and brutal violence will, at some point, resist. Roof's words, "You're taking over our country. And you have to go" reflect the fear that the right has capitalized on since the 1970s - the fear of the majority becoming the minority.

And, as Black people know so very well, being the minority anywhere can literally mean the difference between life and death.

President Obama made a statement on Thursday, saying, "Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun." Despite what our president says, this is not merely an issue of gun control. In fact, this is an issue of the prevalence of structural anti-Black racism that results, in many cases, in anti-Black violence, and in too many cases, anti-Black murder.

Across the country and increasingly around the world, Black people - young, old and middle-aged; disabled and differently abled; queer; transgender; immigrant; incarcerated and more - have erupted in a wave of rebellion that has transformed our political landscape. And yet, there are still those who, in the face of extreme and unnecessary violence, will use that as an opportunity to call for peace, to distort the real issues, to essentially neutralize what has been bubbling under the surface for a very long time.

But where are the calls for accountability for those who taught a young white man to harbor such a serious hatred for Black people? Where is the accountability for a nation that has racism in its very DNA?

We, as a country, in the face of even more Black lives taken way before their time, have a choice to make. It is no longer a question of whether or not racism exists, nor is it a question of whether or not racism is an epidemic that plagues our very existence. The choice we have to make is whether or not we are willing to take it on in a real way.

Our lives, quite literally, depend on it.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza is an organizer, writer and freedom dreamer living and working in Oakland, California. She is the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation's leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women. She is also the cocreator of #BlackLivesMatter, a national organizing project focused on combatting anti-Black, state-sanctioned violence. Alicia's work challenges us to celebrate the contributions of Black queer women's work within popular narratives of Black movements and reminds us that the Black radical tradition is long, complex and international. Her activism reflects organizational strategies that connect emerging social movements without diminishing the specificity of the structural violence facing Black lives.

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June 19 2015

Centuries of Violence

For black Americans, it is impossible to separate the massacre in Charleston from hundreds of years of vicious attacks on our churches and communities

First African Church, Richmond, Virginia, interior of the church from the western wing, June 27, 1874.

In trying to understand the historical context behind the massacre of nine people attending a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, many people have pointed to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, or the string of arsons directed at Southern black churches in the 1990s. But black Americans know that the history of white terror against us, and our churches, runs much deeper than that. We know this vicious attack is only the latest manifestation of an intense hatred of black Americans that is stitched throughout the entire fabric of the nation’s history. Black American places of worship have represented a threat to white supremacy’s various forces since they emerged among free black populations living in cities throughout the U.S. in the late 18th century.

Black churches have long provided physical and spiritual sanctuary from anti-black racism. In their sacred spaces, African Americans can worship and discuss political and personal matters as they wish, often free of white influence or surveillance.

Black churches tend not only to the spiritual and emotional well-being of their members, they address social and economic needs of the larger community by providing a range of services. Historically, churches provided instruction for enslaved and free blacks and often housed schools and benevolent organizations. Churches were a focal point for African American communities’ political organization and mobilization as well.

Throughout history black churches also served as a centralizing force of social justice. Churches aided the fight against slavery, and black congregations and individual members across the nation assisted men, women, and children escaping the horrors of slavery.

Before the Civil War, independent black churches met openly primarily in the North. Southern churches, like “Mother Emanuel,” often met in secret because white Southern lawmakers banned them out of fear that black churches would foment rebellion among enslaved people. After the war, many black Southerners withdrew from white churches and formed their own. Allowed to meet openly, Southern churches were the lifeblood of African Americans’ aggressive fight to make freedom real. For them this included everything from social and economic independence from whites to a degree of political power to protect their interests.

Churches shouldered a lot of the burden for educating and organizing freedpeople during Reconstruction. Many black political figures of the era had direct ties to the clergy. Legal fights against racial discrimination often grew out of churches whose members filed lawsuits to have the right to do everything from being buried where they wanted, to travel with first-class accommodations. Given the historic social and political power of black churches, it is no wonder they have come under literal fire, especially at the hands of individuals and organizations determined to maintain white supremacy. (For more on the political role of the black church, and the threat it’s posed to white supremacists, read Matthew J. Cressler’s essay in Slate.)

Many whites who were looking to preserve white social, economic, and political supremacy over blacks after the war typically used terror to achieve their objectives. White terrorists came from all levels of southern society. Some men struck political figures, and others vented their rage at laborers who rejected working conditions akin to slavery or were prospering under freedom.

White men attacked blacks individually and as members of armed gangs that terrorized communities across the South. Gangs typically raided African Americans’ homes in the middle of the night and held families hostage while they plundered, raped, tortured, and murdered captives. White supremacists maimed and killed hundreds of black people and drove many families from their homes and communities. They also attacked important black institutions like schools, businesses, and churches.

In South Carolina, White men burned and destroyed black churches during reigns of terror throughout the state. African Americans’ testimonies at the congressional hearings investigating the Ku Klux Klan in 1871 open a window into this history.

Benjamin Gore, a resident of Chester, was one of more than 200 African Americans who testified about these attacks before the committee. Gore told members of Congress that he witnessed a church burning in 1871 during a battle between whites and a black militia that was fighting back. He said he was standing on his doorstep when he “saw the fire commence kindling.” He testified that he then saw three white men on horseback, leaving the church and rejoining a larger group of men who redirected their assault toward the blacks defending their community.

In 1871 a gang of white men visited the Spartanburg County home of Alberry Bonner. They snatched him, dragged him outside, stripped him naked, and then whipped him. Bonner also testified that white men tore down his church as part of a larger attack on the community.

A deacon from Limestone named Doctor Huskie testified about a raid on his home in December 1870 and an attack on his brother. Huskie and his neighbors started sleeping outside to avoid being trapped in their homes in case the white men returned. His community’s church was burned down the following June.

White terrorists were not always satisfied with attacking places of worship; they also targeted church leaders. White men from Union County ordered Lewis Thompson to stop preaching in 1870–71. They even drew a picture with a coffin and Thompson’s name on it and placed it at a church near Goshen Hill where he was scheduled to preach. His brother, Dennis Rice, testified that Thompson still preached but congregants were so afraid of being attacked in the church that they “wouldn’t stay to hear him.” Thompson was undaunted and continued trying to spread the Gospel.

White men kidnapped Lewis Thompson on June 16, 1871, and murdered him. Thompson’s mutilated body was recovered from a local river shortly thereafter. Klansmen warned the family against burying his remains.

As violence like this continued, the federal government stepped in. Agents swarmed the South, infiltrated white terror groups, and issued thousands of indictments. In South Carolina, authorities declared martial law and conducted trials.

Thousands of Klansmen and their ilk fled, seeking sanctuary in communities that were hospitable to their mission. Even in cases where authorities tried perpetrators, finding witnesses to testify against them and juries that were willing to convict them was difficult. Only a few men served time for their crimes.

This violence was critical to the restoration of ex-Confederates and their allies to political power across the South. It continued throughout the Jim Crow period when black churches provided sanctuary from the brutal realities of segregation and racial terror and served as meeting centers for the fight against it.

A tradition of activism made church buildings, leaders, and members primary targets of white men who were determined to maintain segregation and deny blacks the right to vote. This is especially clear in the church bombings and burnings of the 1950s and 1960s. Because of the real and imagined threats black churches posed, they remained targets of white violence and hatred throughout the 20th century, with a spate of burnings and fire-bombings in the 1990s that triggered a 1996 congressional investigation.

When Dylann Roof, the alleged perpetrator of this week’s shooting, walked into the prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel, it is not clear that he knew was striking the site of Denmark Vesey’s 1822-planned revolt against slavery on its 193rd anniversary. But firsthand accounts of his heinous act, and his participation in white supremacist Internet forums, indicate that he entered the church with an intense hatred for black Americans.

Connecting the dots among Roof’s racism, his living in a state that continues to cloak itself in symbols of white supremacy and the Confederacy, and his decision to enter the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney’s church and pray with congregants before opening fire and killing six women and three men is not difficult. In striking Mother Emanuel, with its tradition of preserving and promoting black solidarity, Roof aimed his gun at the very heart of African American communities in Charleston and around the country.

For some people, Roof’s killing of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Depayne Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., and Mira Thompson is an isolated incident. But for many black Americans, it is impossible to separate them from two centuries of white supremacist violence, from Walter Scott and other victims of police killings; Kalief Browder and the hundreds of thousands ensnared in the carceral state; and from the murder of Renisha McBride and girls and women like her.

Black people know the history of violent racism connecting the massacre to ships carrying African captives across the Atlantic to terror strikes after the Civil War, whether perpetrated by individuals or the state. Carrying this history in our bodies and souls, we see the connections because as a people facing yet another low point in U.S. history, we do not have the luxury of forgetting or ignoring them.

As we join Charleston in mourning, we know that Roof was not alone when he entered Mother Emanuel. He was standing on the shoulders of the white terrorists who came before him. Today black Americans are searching for ways to honor the lives of people taken so brutally. Our knowledge of the U.S.’s long history of racial terror and endless denials about it makes it hard to suppress our rage about how little has changed. Knowing that white terror is not outdated, the fact that authorities have decided to investigate the killings as a “hate crime” offers little comfort.

Kidada E. Williams, an associate professor of history at Wayne State University, is the author of They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I…/charleston_ame_church_shooting_dylan…


Why White Terrorists Attack Black Churches

Sanctuaries like Charleston’s AME Church aren’t just places of worship—they’re political institutions that threaten white power.

By Matthew J. Cressler
June 19, 2015

Members of the public continue to pay their respects and leave flowers outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015, two days after a mass shooting left nine dead during a bible study at the church.  Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

On Monday I searched for a new home in Charleston alongside my wife and young daughter; in the fall I begin my first year teaching religious studies at the College of Charleston. On Wednesday I drafted my African American religions course syllabus, featuring a visit to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—a church affectionately known as “Mother Emanuel” for its centrality in the history of black Charleston and the South. On Thursday morning I awoke to news of immeasurable loss facing the Mother Emanuel and greater Charleston community.

In the immediate aftermath of tragedies on this scale, talk quickly turns to the senselessness of violence. President Obama expressed his “deep sorrow over the senseless murders” and noted that “there is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place a worship.” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley invoked similar terms in a statement that offered prayers for the “victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church.” She continued: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

The harsh truth is that this act of terrorism was not senseless. The language of “senselessness” implies lack of logic or purpose. The true terror of Dylann Roof’s attack on Emanuel AME is the fact that it fits neatly into an ongoing, blood-soaked history of white violence against black women, men, and children in religious institutions. Roof reportedly told a survivor, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Do not be mistaken. This attack embodied white supremacy at its most blunt and brutal. And it is neither inexplicable nor a coincidence that it happened in a “place of worship.”

Black religious institutions were emblems of freedom and thus legitimate targets in the eyes of white supremacists.

We often imagine religious spaces as set apart from other spheres of life, which makes an attack on a church seem especially abhorrent. But the lines that divide the religious from the political have always been more porous than Thomas Jefferson’s imagined “wall of separation” between church and state. Black churches exist as simultaneously religious and political institutions, and that has made them targets. Sermons unpacking scriptural passages also mobilize resistance to racism; hymns that praise God affirm the value of black life in the same breath. For this reason, institutions like Emanuel AME stand as affronts to white supremacy. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, black churches have long distinguished the “Christianity of Christ” from slaveholding religion, the “Christianity of this land” that is Christian in name only. Because of this, black churches have served as ever-present threats to white power.

When we think of white terrorist attacks on black churches, the first that comes to mind is the infamous civil rights–era bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which claimed the lives of four black girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair. But to fully understand what has motivated white people to enter black places of worship and kill people for centuries—whether with nooses or bombs or guns—we must look back further still. One hundred and fifty years before Dylann Roof killed nine people at Mother Emanuel and a century before four members of the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, a wave of white Christian violence against black religious people and institutions swept the South.

Gods and spirits, songs and sermons, dancing and drums, scriptures and other sacred stories all played pivotal roles in black resistance to white domination, ever since the first Africans were carried across the Atlantic as slaves. When black Americans became Christian—which did not happen in large numbers until the 18th century—they did so in ways that challenged white assertions of black inhumanity. Slaves identified with the plight of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus and anxiously awaited the day when the wrath of God would rain down on the Egyptland of America, and they too would be set free.

Denmark Vesey is a poignant example of the role of black religion in battling white supremacy. Vesey was among the founding members of Emanuel AME, then known as “the African Church,” and most famous for his leadership in a slave rebellion planned for June 17, 1822—193 years to the day before the Mother Emanuel attack. The church played an instrumental role in supporting Vesey’s thwarted plot, and whites treated the church accordingly. In his social history Black Charlestonians, Bernard Powers Jr. called the formation of the African Church in Charleston “a rebellious act of revolutionary proportions,” and it was punished as such. Once discovered, white Charlestonians executed members and burned the church to the ground. (For more on Vesey, and the plight of the African Church in 1822, read Maurie McInnis’ Slate essay.)

Independent black religious institutions emerged en masse for the first time at the end of the Civil War, 43 years later. Freed from the economic exploitation and dehumanization of slavery, African Americans labored to liberate themselves from the surveillance and control of  white religious institutions as well. Black Christians left predominantly white denominations in droves and established their own. In Charleston, Powers reports that in 1859 more than 4,000 African American parishioners remained in four Methodist Episcopal churches; by  1866 those same churches could not count a single black member. On the national level, this trend amounted to nothing short of a “black religious awakening,” as termed by the scholar Eddie Glaude Jr. It represented a “declaration of independence and self-determination” that initiated widespread institution building and led to a flowering of black political power, albeit a short-lived one.

If Emancipation precipitated the rise of independent black churches, Reconstruction’s collapse a decade later transformed those churches into prime targets of a systematic campaign of white terrorism. In the 1870s and 1880s, Northern whites once allied with black abolitionists withdrew their support. The historians David Blight and Edward Blum have both demonstrated how white people in the North and South prioritized reunion with each other over and against the prospect of rebuilding the nation free of white supremacy. With federal troops withdrawn from what had been the Confederate South, black churches and the women and men and children who made them met with destruction and devastation. White Christian paramilitary organizations like the Ku Klux Klan fought to restore white ruling order. (For more on the Klan’s activities in this period, read Kidada Williams’ article in Slate on the long history of white terrorism.) Black religious institutions were emblems of freedom in the face of domination and thus considered legitimate targets in the eyes of white supremacists. Terrorists burned black churches and lynched black people by the thousands. Vigilante violence paved the way for legal Jim Crow apartheid.

The Mother Emanuel massacre should be situated squarely in this long history of African Americans struggling to be free and the death dealing they so often meet because of it. We may never know, on an individual level, what “motivated” Dylann Roof to sit in the pews of Emanuel AME for an hour before killing nine praying people. But we certainly can and do know why white terrorists would target black people in a church. By their very nature, black churches pose threats to white dominance in both quotidian and structural ways. It would be a grave mistake to conclude that this attack bears no meaning, that it cannot be explained, that it does not “make sense.” Black churches and the people who give them life have far too frequently faced death for their resistance to racism. Failing to recognize this most recent attack for what it is does disservice to the lives lost in building this beloved community.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Charleston shooting.

Matthew J. Cressler, Ph.D., will be assistant professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston beginning in the fall. Connect with him at

As Nation Mourns Nine Black Victims of Church Massacre, Details of Suspect's White Supremacy Emerge
Friday, 19 June 2015 

By Amy Goodman and Juan González, Democracy Now!  Video Interview

A 21-year-old South Carolina man with apparent sympathies to white supremacy has been arrested for the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof reportedly sat with the church members for an hour before before he opened fire. Roof’s capture came as the names of the nine slain African-American churchgoers were released. The Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday’s attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine clergy and parishioners were shot dead Wednesday while participating in a Bible study in one of the most historic black churches in the South. On Thursday, we learned the names of the nine victims. The church’s pastor, 41-year-old Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, at the age of 23 he became the youngest African American to be elected to the state Legislature. He was elected to the state Senate at age 27.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a 45-year-old mother of three, reverend and high school track coach.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Cynthia Hurd was a 54-year-old librarian. She was the manager at St. Andrews Regional Library since 2011.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Simmons was a 74-year-old ministry staff member at EmanuelAME and the former pastor of Greater Zion AME Church in the nearby town of Awendaw.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Myra Thompson was the wife of the Reverend Anthony Thompson of Charleston’s Holy Trinity REC Church.

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor was a 49-year-old mother of four.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ethel Lance was a 70-year-old grandmother who had worked at Emanuel AME for more than three decades.

AMY GOODMAN: Susie Jackson was Ethel Lance’s cousin and the oldest victim of the massacre at the age of 87. She was a longtime member of the church.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Susie Jackson’s nephew, Tywanza Sanders, was the youngest victim at 26 years old. He was a recent graduate of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. He graduated from the university’s Division of Business Administration. Before the shooting took place, Tywanza posted a short video clip on Snapchat, where you can briefly see the suspected gunman, Dylann Roof, sitting at a table with all of the victims during the Bible study. Roof reportedly sat with the church members for an hour before he opened fire.

Sylvia Johnson, the cousin of slain pastor Clementa Pinckney, said a survivor described to her what happened inside the church.
SYLVIA JOHNSON: From my understanding, the suspect came to the church, and he asked for the pastor: "Where is the pastor?" They showed him where the pastor was. He sat next to my cousin, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, for throughout the entire Bible study. At the conclusion of the Bible study, from what I understand, they just start hearing loud noises just ringing out. And he had already wounded—the suspect had already wounded a couple of individuals, including my cousin, Reverend Clementa Pinckney.
AMY GOODMAN: Sylvia Johnson also recounted what she had been told by the survivor of the assailant’s motives.
SYLVIA JOHNSON: She said that he had reloaded five different times. And her son was trying to talk him out of doing that act of killing people. And he just said, "I have to do it." He said, "You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go."
AMY GOODMAN: The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, fled the church. He was arrested Thursday morning in Shelby, North Carolina. A friend of Roof’s said he wanted to start a new civil war. Dalton Tyler said, quote, "He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself."

In a photo posted on Facebook, Dylann Roof is seen wearing a black jacket that prominently features the flags of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and apartheid-era South Africa from when the two African countries were ruled by the white minority. Another photo posted online appears to show Roof posing in front of a car with the front plate, license plate, that reads, "Confederate States of America."

The Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday’s attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice. President Obama addressed the nation on Thursday and spoke of the significance of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship. Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because it’s worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll be joined by two leaders of two of the most prominent black churches in the country. We’ll also discuss the issue of why so many are afraid to use the word "domestic terrorism." Then we’ll talk about gun control in the United States. Stay with us.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Juan González

Juan González co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. González has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years and a staff columnist at the New York Daily News since 1987. He is a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its "Pick of the Podcasts," along with NBC's Meet the Press.



PHOTOS BELOW:  The Confederate flag and an undated photo of Roof sitting on the hood of a car with a Confederate flag on its license plates. The photo was shared by WLTX of Columbia, South Carolina. It has been suggested that the shooting was timed to coincide with two large political rallies in the city, as just hours before Rev. Pinckney met with Hillary Clinton as part of her presidential campaign and Jeb Bush was also due to visit Charleston today. It is understood his appearance has now been cancelled.


Is South Carolina Just Gonna Fly That Confederate Flag Today or What?
by Jia Tolentino

South Carolina, a state that thoughtfully welcomes its 19 known hate groups by flying a Confederate flag over the statehouse, is facing a real quandary today. When a white man walks into a black church—a church that was targeted, surveilled and burned down 200 years ago in a period when black churches were prohibited from meeting without a white person present, and which has since served as a powerful site of resistance to a state that lynched black men as recently as 1947—and is accepted by them in prayer before he opens fire and kills nine people, including a state senator: what are you gonna do with that damn Confederate flag?

When Governor Nikki Haley was asked about the Confederate flag’s dubious official presence in 2014, she answered, “What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”

Right, right, nice, nice. Last night, Haley wrote on Facebook, “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.” Haley seems confused, or something—but the rest of us could easily leap to the possibility that a racist murderer might be highly motivated by a number of things, such as racism, as well as a desire to murder, and also maybe a governor who is like, “What I can tell you about this slave-state white supremacy symbol officially sponsored by my administration is that CEOs think it’s pretty chill.”

Anyway, photos show the state flag and the American flag at half-staff above the House:

And the report, so far, is that the Confederate flag is still flying high atop its pole.

Here’s to the wildly unrealistic hope that the next time it’s moved, it’s taken down. But we know, of course, that it won’t be. This breed of racism is the state’s origin, a strand of its DNA: South Carolina was the first state to fly a Confederate flag over war-captured territory, its slave-loving, red-white-and-blue banner marking the official start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in 1861.

FORT SUMTER…/confederate-flag-flying-sout…/story…


Confederate Flag Flying on South Carolina Capitol Grounds Provokes Anger After Charleston Shooting
June 18, 2015

Commentators on social media are calling for the Confederate flag that remained flying outside South Carolina's state house this afternoon  after nine people were shot dead at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, to be removed on the grounds that it is "insulting" to the victims of the shooting.

Gov. Nikki Haley, who was in tears during a news conference this morning on the mass shooting at the historically black church, previously rejected the notion of removing the flag at a debate last year, saying it was a "sensitive issue" but that she didn't believe the flag presented an image problem for the state because she never had "one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”

Haley's press secretary told ABC News today, "In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag. Only the General Assembly can do that."

The offices of South Carolina's General Assembly and South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry D. McMaster did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

South Carolina, which is one of five states that still doesn't have a state hate crime law, recently celebrated "Confederate Memorial Day" this past May, during which a large Confederate flag was displayed on the steps of the South Carolina State Capitol.

Many object to the flying of the Confederate flag, which some say recalls the South's support for slavery during the Civil War. Supporters say it's a symbol of southern heritage.

The governor and the state is now under fire on social media, where many are linking the state's acceptance of the Confederate flag to the Charleston shooting, which is being investigated as a federal "hate crime," according to federal authorities.

PHOTO: Confederate re-enactors position a gigantic Confederate flag on the steps of the South Carolina State Capitol building on May 2, 2015 in Columbia, SC
Richard Ellis/Getty Images
PHOTO: Confederate re-enactors position a gigantic Confederate flag on the steps of the South Carolina State Capitol building on May 2, 2015 in Columbia, SC.

There were over 36,600 tweets with the word "Confederate flag" over the past day, according to Twitter analytic service, Topsy. 

June 18 2015

The Long List of Murders Committed by White Extremists Since the Oklahoma City Bombing

by Ben Mathis-Lilley


Wade Michael Page, who killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.  Photo by FBI via Getty Images

Wednesday's mass murder of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina is the most high-profile example of white extremist terror in the United States since Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. But though not each incident makes national headlines, a tally kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates that the murder of law enforcement officials and innocent civilians by racial supremacists, anti-government paranoiacs, and other believers in white fringe movements has been depressingly common in the two decades since Timothy McVeigh's attack. Below (taken from SPLC's records and confirmed by outside news accounts) is a list of 29 deadly attacks since Oklahoma City—comprising a total of 63 victims—carried out or believed to have been carried out by white extremists.

October 9, 1995. An Amtrak employee is killed when a train derails near Hyder, Arizona because the track it's traveling on has been sabotaged. The perpetrators are never found, but anti-law enforcement propaganda messages from the "Sons of Gestapo" are found near the scene.

April 12, 1996. A neo-Nazi named Larry Wayne Shoemake, who is found to have owned at least 22 firearms and an estimated 20,000 rounds of ammunition, kills a black man in a random Jackson, Mississippi attack.

July 27, 1996 A bomb set by Eric Robert Rudolph, who is affiliated with the "Christian Identity" fundamentalist movement, kills one person at the Atlanta Olympics.

January 29, 1998. Another bomb set by Rudolph kills a man at a Birmingham abortion clinic.

May 29, 1998. Three militia sympathizers named Alan Pilon, Robert Mason and Jason McVean fire 29 shots at a Cortez, Colorado police officer who is trying to apprehend them because they've stolen a water truck, killing him. The three evade capture but are believed to ultimately have died in the desert wilderness surrounding the crime scene.

October 23, 1998. With his wife and children nearby, an abortion provider in Amherst, New York is shot and killed through the window of his home by James Charles Kopp.

July 1, 1999. Brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams, who also have connections to the "Christian Identity" movement, kill a gay couple in Redding, California.

July 2-July 5 1999. Neo-Nazi Benjamin Nathaniel Smith kills black basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong and and a Korean graduate student and wounds nine other non-white victims in a three-day shooting spree.

August 10, 1999. Neo-Nazi Buford Furrow kills a Filipino immigrant after firing 70 shots inside a Jewish community center near Los Angeles.

April 28, 2000. An unemployed immigration attorney named Richard Baumhammers who believes "non-white immigration" should be banned shoots and kills five people in the Pittsburgh area.

December 8, 2003. Steven Bixby kills two police officers in Abbeville, South Carolina during a dispute over the state's decision to use a 20-foot strip of the Bixbys' land to widen a highway.  

May 24, 2004. Wade and Christopher Lay, a father-son pair obsessed with the 1993 government siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, kill a bank security guard in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

January 21, 2009. Neo-Nazi Keith Luke rapes and kills an immigrant from Cape Verde in Brockton, Massachusetts, then kills a 72-year-old homeless immigrant.

April 4, 2009. Richard Andrew Poplawski, a frequent poster on the white supremacist Stormfront website who apparently believes a national "gun ban" is imminent, kills three Pittsburgh police officers.

April 25, 2009. Joshua Cartwright kills two Okaloosa County, Florida sheriff's deputies. Per a police report, Cartwright's wife says he was paranoid about the U.S. government and "extremely disturbed" by Barack Obama's election.

May 30, 2009. Shawna Forde, Albert Gaxiola, and Jason Bush kill a Latino man and his nine-year-old daughter in Arivaca, Arizona during a robbery intended to raise funds for the "Minutemen American Defense" group.

May 31, 2009. Scott Roeder kills Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, in the Wichita, Kansas Lutheran church where Tiller serves as an usher.

June 10, 2009. An 89-year-old white supremacist named James von Brunn kills a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. from point-blank range.

Feb. 18, 2010. Joseph Andrew Stack flies a plane into an Austin, Texas IRS office, killing one person.

May 20, 2010. A father-son pair named Jerry and Joseph Kane (who conduct "seminars" about how "sovereign citizens" can evade debt) kill two West Memphis, Arkansas police officers.

September 26-October 3, 2011. Avowed white supremacists David Pedersen and Holly Ann Grigsby kill Grigsby's father and stepmother in Washington, a man they believe is Jewish in Oregon, and a black man in California.

August 5, 2012. A white supremacist named Wade Michael Page kills six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

August 16, 2012. "Sovereign citizen"-movement adherents Brian Smith and Kyle Joekel, who are now awaiting trial, allegedly kill two Louisiana sheriff's deputies in a trailer-park ambush.

September 4, 2012. Christopher Lacy, a software engineer who lives in a rural trailer and apparently sympathizes with the "sovereign citizen" movement, shoots a California Highway Patrol officer who dies the next day.

April 13, 2014. Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old with a long history of KKK activity, kills three people in the area of a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas.

June 8, 2014. Jerad and Amanda Miller kill two police officers in a random attack at a pizza restaurant in Las Vegas, then kill a customer at a Walmart. The Millers had spent time on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's property during protests related to Bundy's dispute with the federal government.

September 12, 2014: Eric Frein allegedly shoots and kills a Pennslyvania state trooper; he's caught 48 days later after hiding from authorities in "survivalist" fashion in a rural area.

June 17, 2015. Dylann Roof allegedly kills nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

July 24, 2015: John Russell Houser, a 59-year-old man with a history of expressing extremist and anti-feminist beliefs, kills two women at a screening of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck in Lafayette, Louisiana.

*This article has been updated to include attacks that were not mentioned in the original post.