From Black Skeptics Los Angeles
Historically, black churches have provided refuge from white supremacist subjugation and violence, while also being premier targets for white terrorism. Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal was a sterling example of this. Founded in 1816 by black parishioners who broke from the racist leadership of the white Methodist Episcopal Church, Emanuel AME was a forerunner for radical activist leadership. In July 1822 founder Denmark Vesey and five others were executed for organizing what would have been the largest slave insurrection in American history. The church was subsequently burned down by white supremacists then rebuilt in 1834, providing a vehicle for cultural events, political solidarity and civil rights organizing.
The massacre of nine Emanuel leaders and members by a white terrorist is a brutal reminder of the towering role community churches play in the lives of African Americans who are still not considered human nearly two centuries after the foiled Vesey revolt. It is also an indictment of the nation’s spineless leadership on gun control and the authoritarian sway of the NRA lobby. In his chilling message to his victims, the 21 year-old gunman (yet another addition to the swollen ranks of young white male mass murderers) allegedly said, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country—and you have to go”, evoking the nativist Birth of a Nation and Tea Party rhetoric that has been used to justify the lynchings of black people from the early 20th century to the present. While Charleston is a hotbed of white supremacist and KKK activity, most terrorist assaults on black lives are within the province of state sanctioned violence. The loss of vibrant community members and activists (a librarian, state senator and coach among them) is a heartrending outrage and yet another example of the violent myth of “Millennial” post-racialism.