Police lead Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Jason Miczek)
The evidence is clear. The reports are in. There is no other conclusion. It’s 2015, and Black people in America are under a sustained and lethal terrorist attack.
In North Charleston, S.C., not too far from the place where the A.M.E. terrorist attack on 9 Black church members took place, Walter Scott was shot several times in the back as he fled from police on foot, posing no immediate threat. In Staten Island, N.Y., Eric Garner was choked to death by officers as he gasped for air, exclaiming: “I can’t breathe.” In Baltimore, MD, a frightened Freddie Gray fled from Brian Rice and two other white officers on foot. By the time he was placed in the police wagon, his leg had been broken. By the final time he was removed from the wagon, three of his vertebrae had been cracked and his voice box had been crushed.
In Barstow, Calif., a pregnant Black woman named Charlena Michelle Cook was viciously thrown to the ground as she screamed and pleaded, telling the officers: “Please! I’m pregnant.” Recalling the incident later, Cooks stated that officers treater her “like an animal, like a monster, like I didn’t exist, like I was not human.” In St. Louis, Mo., protester Kristine Hendrix was walking home on the sidewalk when an officer cut off her and a male colleague and then proceeded to use a Taser on her twice as she lay on the concrete writhing and screaming in pain. She was able to capture the incident on her cellphone and the police are currently under investigation.
In the last month alone, the accounts of racial terror reports have been trickling in. We’ve witnessed former Officer Eric Casebolt verbally and physically attack a group of Black teenagers in McKinney, TX, forcing Black boys to lie down and then violently slamming Dejerria Becton to the ground. He then put his knee on her back, placed his weight on her body, and ignored her pleas for relief. All the while, he allowed Brandon Brooks, a white teenager, to stand and walk around freely. (Thankfully, Brandon used his privilege to film the entire incident.)
Then in Fairfield, Ohio, a whole gang of white police officers brutally accosted, pepper sprayed, choked, and slammed the family of Krystal Dixon to the ground as a young white male in his swim trunks forced his forearm onto the throat of a young Black teenage male as we was already being arrested by a white cop. A white female cop grabbed a young Black girl by the back of her neck as the other white male cops viciously manhandled other Black teenage girls, so much so that a 12-year-old has her jaw broken along with 3 ribs cracked by white Fairfield police. It ended up with a picture of a young girl in the hospital looking like this, with a solitary tear streaming down her face.
In a nation that saw 3,959 lynchings of Black people committed by an assortment of white American terrorists between 1877-1950 with no one punished for these nearly 4,000 atrocities, history reverberates through these most current traumatic incidents. This is a nation that has ignored multiple instances of mass anti-Black mob violence carried out by thousands of whites in the following cities:
- Wilmington, North Carolina (1898)
- Atlanta, Georgia (1906)
- Springfield, Illinois (1908)
- St. Louis, Missouri (1917)
- Chicago, Illinois (1919)
- Elaine, Arkansas (1919)
- Washington, DC (1919)
- Tulsa, Oklahoma (1921)
- Rosewood, Florida (1923)
This list only includes three of the 25-plus cities where Black people were met with white supremacist mob violence during the Red Summer of 1919. All told, thousands of Black lives were wiped out during these and other instances of racial cleansing. White supremacist racial cleansing destroyed intact and thriving Black communities and business districts, directly stunting Black economic growth and constraining the viability of future community health and wellness.
In a nation that witnessed the death of 4 girls and the injury of another at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, church by members of the arch-terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan, the slaughter of nine unarmed Black churchgoers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church and the assassination of Pastor and State Senator Clementa Pickney stirs up the ghosts of America’s haunted past. Dylann Roof brutally murdered us as we worshipped in our sacred space. Dylann Roof butchered us as we talked with the “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears.”
Meanwhile, the same media that declared a deadly shootout between biker gangs in Waco, TX, a “brawl,” has labelled the murder of 9 in Charleston a “shooting.” But this was no mere shooting. It was a cold-blooded, pre-meditated, white supremacist terrorist attack that ended the lives of nine unarmed Black people in the same church co-founded by the revolutionary Denmark Vesey, who sought to overthrow America’s wicked regime of human bondage and chattel slavery.
The terrorist Dylann Roof has been caught, but the threat has not abated. Whether at swimming pools or churches, whether on suburban sidewalks or city streets, there is no place Black folk are safe from the police use of excessive force or guns of a white supremacist assassin. History has shown that white supremacist violence is grossly systemic and is an existential threat to Black people living in America.
We have not overcome. We are not post-racial. We are at the crossroads. The world is upside down when Dylann Storm Roof, James Eagan Holmes, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are captured alive while Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones lie in an early grave. The question now is: will white Americans confront the ideology of white supremacy and uproot it from every policy, practice, and community? Because domestic American white supremacist terrorism must end.