By: Jesus Radicals
On June 17th of 2015 an evening prayer meeting at the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina was the target of white-supremacist terrorism as a 21 year old gunman, Dylann Roof, gunned down and killed 9 black men and women from ages 26 to 84 including the church's pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney. Emmanuel AME has been a rock and refuge for black folks in the south since its founding in the early 1800s and has been a major site of fomenting change for racial justice. Despite its history of persecution, having been burned down and rebuilt, its existence outlawed by Charleston law, and a host of other challenges the congregation has faced as an historic all black church in the center of racist, white-supremacist, USAmerican South, Emmanuel AME is a congregation that has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity and continued racially motivated terrorism and violence. The blow dealt to Emmanuel AME came as a shock to the congregants gathered together for prayer and fellowship on the evening on June 17th as they lovingly welcomed with open arms the gunman into their most sacred of spaces. These congregants' gesture of love was met with the kind of hate that most of us have never close to experienced and nine men and women had their lives stolen from them.
As expected, in the wake of this trauma, the media has attempted to paint the event as an isolated incident, not indicative of a continued pattern of racially motived violence against black and brown bodies in this country, but rather a violent act perpetrated by a disturbed individual whose poisonous ideology is born of a radical fringe element within USAmerican culture that does not characterize the culture at large. However, for us, it is important to recognize this act as playing a role within a larger paradigm of racial violence in the United States in which people of color continue to be disproportionately impoverished, policed, imprisoned, and cast as dangerous and criminal others to be avoided by "normal" well-meaning white folks. Yes, acts such as the Emmanuel AME massacre are heinous and terrifying acts of violence that are typically only perpetrated by those who hold to a fringe movement of overt white-supremacism, but the ways in which they are sensationalized through media coverage as such serves to mask and cloak the broader paradigm of racialized violence and white-supremacy that are foundational to USAmerican society. If we repudiate this fringe violence without recognizing the full context in which it occurs, and the normalized ideologies which serve to shape the ideology of the overt white-supremacist fringe, we legitimize the routine violence done to people of color every day. Let the strength and resilience of Emmanuel AME through centuries of continued struggle for dignity of black lives and the ways in which its congregants have continued to get up after each time they are put down serve as inspiration and guide to us all as we work for racial justice in our unique contexts and let us all not stop until all of this violence has been put to rest.
We at Jesus Radical have put together the following list of articles which we believe provide a solid foundation to understand the events that have occurred in Charleston and the broader context in which these events have occurred. As organizers, we have realized that we are often not equipped to respond quickly to this kind of breaking news and current events in the way we might like to. However, these limitations do no prevent us from sharing the wisdom of others whose responses to this tragedy (and to other happenings) that we as organizers resonate with and feel are important to pass on to the collective. We have put this list together with the hope that readers of this website who are committed to or are in the process of committing to the difficult work of undoing and working against racism and white-supremacy in all its varied forms, that the reflections and analysis of of the following writers who are also committed to this work will help to deepen your own analysis and shape your continued work for justice.
Chris Crass, "Every White Person is Aiding and Abetting Terrorism Unless Naming Institutional and Cultural White Supremacy in #Charleston." The Good Men Project, June 18, 2015.
Heather Cox Richardson, “Reconstructing the American Tradition of Domestic Terrorism” We’re History, June 18, 2015.
Jennifer Bailey, AME Minister. "Rolling in Sackcloth and Ashes." Huffington Post, June 18, 2015.
Jessica Simeone and others. "These Are The Victims Of The Charleston Church Shooting." BuzzFeed News. June 18, 2015.
Manisha Sinha, “The Long and Proud History of Charleston’s AME Church.” Huffington Post. June 19, 2015.
Neil Irving Painter, “What is Whiteness?” New York Times. June 20, 2015.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, "What this Cruel War was Over: The meaning of the confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it." The Atlantic, June 22, 2015.
Willie James Jennings. "Dylann Roof Was Wrong: The Race War Isn’t Coming, It’s Here." Religion Dispatches, June 26, 2015.
Xolela Mangcu, "Should We Forgive the Charleston Killer?" The Root, June 21, 2015.
Yoni Applebaum. "The Fight for Equality in Charleston, From Denmark Vesey to Clementa Pinckney." The Atlantic, June 18, 2015.
The viewpoints expressed in each reader-submitted article are the authors own, and not an “official Jesus Radicals” position. For more on our editorial policies, visit our submissions page. If you want to contact an author or you have questions, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us.
Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Liza Minno Bloom
Eda Ruhiye Uca