Several Anarres Project writers respond to the brutal shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and what it means in the context of US history and politics at this very moment.
Javier Cervantes, Chair of the Human Relations Commission for Albany, Oregon:
What is so devastating to me about this terrorist attack in South Carolina is the language the terrorist allegedly used describing his rationale for the slaughter. He invoked the word and sentiment: ‘rape’ and ‘taking over our country’. On Monday, now presidential candidate Donald Trump invoked the exact same words and sentiment in describing undocumented ‘Mexicans’ that come to the US while announcing his candidacy. The act of dehumanizing groups of people by describing them like Trump did can lead and sadly, DOES lead to horrendous acts of barbarism and terrorism.
Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies, Anarres Project Contributor:
The Charleston killer was a white supremacist who said, in the church ” you people rape our women and are taking over our country. you have to go”
And this is what scares me. If you look at the rise of Nazism, it took place at a time when middle class and lower middle class Germans were being pushed down into poverty; when rampant economic insecurity stalked the land; and people were looking for scapegoats and found them in Jews.
Today, in the US, we also see the shrinking of the middle class and growing economic insecurity along with a growing sense of rage and victimization among middle class and working class whites. Will they look for scapegoats among Blacks and other people of color? It would not be the first time in US history that happened.
It’s a scary moment folks. We best face it head on.
Chris Crass, Anti-Racism Organizer, Anarres Project Contributor:
Every white person who refers to #Charleston as “incomprehensible racial tension” (which narrates it as equal people who equally don’t like each other, and it’s impossible to understand), is providing cover to murderous, historically rooted, growing stronger every day, structural and cultural white supremacy.
Every white person who refers to the shooter as a “disturbed individual full of hate” without talking about the pathological culture of white supremacy that filled him with hate and gave him a target for his rage, is furthering the pathological culture that masterfully is horrified by these acts, but refuses to acknowledge what they revel about our society.
Every white person who calls the shooter insane, is by default normalizing and perpetuating structural and individual white supremacist violence.
Every white person who says this is a human tragedy, not about race, is saying Black life on its own isn’t worthy of national tragedy, and must be made raceless, removed from history, context, and meaning that forces us all to recognize this isn’t a national tragedy by an individual madman, it’s a devastating and evil, but nevertheless, comprehensible act springing from the deep tragedy at the heart of a white supremacist nation.
Every white person focused on explaining how much they personally like Black people and so therefore racism can’t exist, needs to take a long hard look at how the shooter clearly had a plan, was methodical, and patiently implemented horrific acts, while ensuring survivors could spread the news of this terrorist attack, to further terrorize the Black community.
White people need to sit silently and ask, “what is the message the shooter wanted communicated? How is that message institutionally and culturally represented and expressed all around us? And then ask:
If we truly abhor this devastating act, then we must recognize it as terrorism and seek to understand the worldview, the institutional backing, and political agenda this terrorism is imbedded in. We must recognize that white indifference and denial is key to giving space for this terrorism to operate and thrive, and commit ourselves to destroying the vast networks of support giving rise to the terrorist attack against Black members of a Black church, rooted in Black liberation struggle and a vision of beloved community for all.
White people, our work is to turn the horror and heartbreak we are feeling, and do everything we can to turn away from the white supremacist supporting narrative of the lone wolf, and turn our attention to how we transform the pack to move white people in the millions into active racial justice efforts for #BlackLivesMatter and multiracial democracy springing from structural and cultural change.
And for all of us who are white anti-racists, our job is to help free our white people’s minds from the ways white supremacy trains us to understand the world. Most white people don’t wake up and say “I want to support white supremacy today”, but they stand up on the unconscious conveyor belt moving them forward along the normalized white supremacist path. As long time Kentucky-based white anti-racist leader Sonja de Vries, reminds us, we must work to support other white people to join us on this journey, rather then push them away for not already being with us or using the wrong words. We must free ourselves and other white people from the murderous logic that allows these acts of terrorism to continue, looking for the openings with other white people to do deeper, rather then only seeing the closings.
The future of our society is at stake, the health of our hearts and souls are at stake, the possibility of our children being the next shooter or the next freedom rider is at stake. I know it is heart breaking looking deep into the face of this tragedy, but the more you look, the more you will realize that your heart is breaking free from white supremacy and opening to the possibility of ending this death culture and achieving collective liberation.