By Javier Cervantes
I went to bed Wednesday night saddened and in disgust. Yet another act of cowardly malice reared its ugly head again; this time the victims were members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina where Dylann Roof confessed to the brutal murder of nine church-goers . Among the victims was the assassination of a South Carolina Senator and Pastor.
Simply stated, this was an act of homegrown domestic terrorism.
The terror attack is also being classified as a hate crime; how could it not? The supporting evidence is there with the confessed gunman Roof, having posted on Facebook images of himself sporting a jacket with South Africa apartheid flags as well as taking a photo in on a vehicle with a decorative license plate that had the Confederate Battle Flag.
Perhaps these images are circumstantial, but the signs have to give one pause to consider where his sympathies and loyalties lay. Then Roof deliberately selected a mostly black church to carry out his barbarism.
What is so devastating to me about this terrorist attack, in addition to the loss of life, is the language the terrorist allegedly used in describing his rationale for the slaughter. A survivor and witness said Roof invoked the word and sentiment of ‘rape’ and minorities ‘taking over our country’ in order to justify his attack against this innocent congregation.
The feeling of ‘otherizing’ as less than human and the aura of a biological predisposition to criminality haunts me because I heard these sentiments earlier in the week uttered by now presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Trump invoked the exact same judgments in describing undocumented ‘Mexicans’ as rapists and criminals—all while announcing his candidacy for the highest office in the nation.
It sent a shiver down my spine when I heard what Roof allegedly said and matched it to what Trump actually articulated.
So what does this have to do with Albany, Oregon?
Well, you may recall the city passing a resolution after white supremacy leaflets were given out and left on cars at the 2014 Veterans Day parade last November. Three months later swastika graffiti defaming the property of a minority family that just moved to Albany was found.
Then in April, the Albany Human Relations Commission heard testimony of alleged housing discrimination against two immigrant families at an apartment complex. And more recently according to the June 5, 2015 Public Safety Log new swastika graffiti has reappeared at the same location where it was originally reported.
I would never want to live in a place where I was not able to express myself freely and I am so pleased that I can do so here. With these freedoms however, goes a responsibility as well. Our local incidents are bred and fester from silence.
I have expressed previously and will continue to say: violent rhetoric can lead to hate and that hate can manifest into acts of discrimination and sinister violence. Let this type of bombast serve as a red flag for our leaders and law enforcement agencies.
It serves as a warning that we as representatives of our community need to be vigilant and offer a counter narrative to this type of hate and hope it does not rise to the level of terror or violence that was wrought upon Charleston, South Carolina.
Human history has demonstrated that silence is consent. The escalation of the Nazis in Germany took rise because a populace was silent about atrocities taking place which led to the scapegoating and murder of millions of Jews.
The act of dehumanizing marginalized groups by leaving flyers at a parade, or scrawling graffiti on property, or describing people as Trump did is an attempt to intimidate and demonize and can escalate, thus sadly leading to unspeakable acts of barbarism, terrorism and the assignation that took place in Charleston.
Let us not be silent, less we become complicit if something like this—heaven forbid— ever takes place here in our own backyard because we said nothing and then stood for nothing while hateful imagery in our own community continued to escalate.