Late last night I learned of the despicable actions of a young man—whose name I will not mention as to not bring him attention—in Charleston, South Carolina. Without provocation, he went to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and opened fire. Nine people are dead, and the man—the murderer—has been captured.
This wasn’t an act of religious violence, this man hated black people. Witnesses to the crime say he shouted: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Beyond that, and even more horrific, he sat in on a Bible study for an hour before he shot these people. He saw them, he saw their humanity and their worship, and he still shot and killed them for perceived crimes against America.
This man had a history of racial hatred. He had a jacket with patches for the South African apartheid flag and the Rhodesian flag (the flag of white-ruled Zimbabwe). His car had a front bumper plate celebrating the Confederate States of America. This wasn’t an attack that was planned spur of the moment, this was thought out, pre-meditated and done solely to harm and destroy the black community in Charleston.
Despite the opinions of many of my Southern brethren, I feel this proves the danger of honoring a racist past. This young man thought to honor South Africa’s apartheid past enough to decorate his clothing with it. He put a license plate on his car glorifying a nation that is: A) traitorous to the United States, and B) fought vigorously to maintain the subjugation of an entire race of people.
It may seem harmless to carry a rebel flag, but that flag is used by dozens of hate groups to promote their ideals. Stormfront, a white nationalist group based out of Florida, uses the rebel flag to promote their racist agenda. They wear the flag proudly to show their white pride and their desire to become a strong white race again. Much like the Charleston shooter, Stormfront has said things such as:
“Beating down a mud [a non-white person] when they try to poisen [sic] one of our own or when they try to seduce one of our girls may not be God inspired, but rather a righteous act of collective preservation.”—Preston Wiginton, Stormfront.org post, 2007.
“They seduce our women. They rape our women.” They support this rhetoric and decorate it with Confederate imagery. The argument that wearing the rebel flag for supporting Southern history doesn’t hold water when it’s used as a way to promote black murder.
Frustratingly enough, Fox News had a man on Fox and Friends this morning saying that this attack was caused by religious motivations. The pastor, E.W. Jackson said: “Most people jumped to conclusions about race…I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country. We don’t know why he went into a church. But he didn’t choose a bar, he didn’t choose a basketball court, he chose a church.” His implication that this was anything other than a racial hate crime further minimizes the persecution of black people.
Christians weren’t killed for their Biblical views. There isn’t a history of rhetoric related to Christians raping woman and ruining our nation. There is a history of people saying that the black community harms white women, and this rhetoric has encouraged hundreds of lynchings throughout the Deep South.
No one should fear for their lives in their houses of worship. No one should die because they happen to be born black. This is a racial hate crime, and this man supported his rhetoric and violence with Confederate and pro-apartheid imagery.
Please keep the victims’ families and the Emanuel AME Church family in your thoughts.