On June 17, 1822, Denmark Vesey and five others were going to revolt to kill slaveholders and free the people they held as slaves so they could escape to Haiti. However, their plot was thwarted, and they were caught and executed a couple of weeks later. Denmark had purchased his own freedom in 1799, and he founded the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816. He wanted to see his people free, and he died for it.
On the 193rd anniversary of the revolt that would have been, Dylann Storm Roof walked into Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina. He joined the Bible study for an hour and then opened fire on the people he had fellowshipped with. A 5-year old played dead to survive, and he left one witness to tell the tale after saying, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.”
Nine people were killed as they were praying and praising the Lord. Nine Black people were worshipping in the oldest Black church in the South as their lives ended. Nine Black people died yesterday because Dylann Roof is white supremacy in the flesh, and I am tired. I am shaken to my core and shaken to my bones because this is an invasion of a place of refuge. It is a violation of a literal safe space. But it follows a history of black people being terrorized through denigration of our churches. It is definitive proof that there is a war on black people in America, and there is nowhere safe for us. The work that has been done in the last 60 years to get us closer to equality has regressed, and we’re back where we started.
Jim Crow is back like he never left. Well, he never did leave, but he took more vacations. Now he’s recharged and refreshed and ready to torment us anew. Now, we’re repeating the history we used to read about, wondering how people could stand to exist in such hell. We’re living the torment we once thought we’d never see because surely the work of those that came before us has allowed us to move past them. In 2015, police have body slammed young black girls who were swimming at pools and killed countless unarmed people who dared to be black. There have been nooses spotted hanging around college campuses, and there are 939 hate organizations that are currently active in the United States. We even have a racist frat chanting and singing songs about not letting “ni**ers” in. The bitter cherry on the tragic sundae of oppression is the killing of people while in church, reminiscent of the four little girls who died in the KKK’s bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. We have fallen into a space-time continuum and landed squarely in 1960. Are the water hoses next?
It is open season on black people, and that was not some lone gunman who walked into Emanuel AME. He was part of the commitment of a segment of America to put us in our place and remind us that we are not safe. We are not safe in the streets, in our homes, at the park, or at church. We are not safe, because what is a sanctuary when white supremacy can meet us there? It cannot be lost on us that the terrorist decided to kill black people in a building that is a symbol of our resistance and fighting spirit. Dylann Roof admitted to wanting to start a race war, which is why he walked into that church and gunned down those beautiful people. So no, he is not alone, and he is not the only one that should be held accountable.
Jim Crow never left, because the Confederate flag still flies in South Carolina, waving and taunting us even from the state capitol building.
So, we cannot be blamed when we feel like there is a coordinated effort by America to stomp us out, and it has felt especially tense since 2008. We got our first black president when Barack Obama got elected, and it seems that racists got on high alert. They lost their raggedy ass minds and went, “Uh oh. The blacks are making progress and feeling hope. STOP IT NOW.”
Racist people have become bolder and bolder in showing their prejudice, and President Obama has been the most disrespected Commander-in-Chief yet. His wife is called a monkey, and his children are verbally assaulted too. We made one giant leap forward and then got dropkicked across the street, in case we were feeling too good about our position. They heard us chant “Yes, we can!” too much and wanted to tell us, “No, you won’t.”
Just days after we’ve been terrorized by an admitted racist who wanted to start a race war, the presiding judge over his case made sure to tell us that his family needed to be helped too. Because in America, white people will defend their own against all odds. Because an unfortunate number of men in blue, people behind the bench and leaders who are making all the rules are Jim Crow’s minions.
We are back in 1960, ladies and gents. I fear for what happens next.
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind!
In the cotton fields,
Beware the hour
It uproots trees!
– Langston Hughes
Luvvie is a professional troublemaker and writer who talks pop culture at Awesomely Luvvie, technology at Awesomely Techie and is the Executive Director of The Red Pump Project. She’s a columnist and Contributing Editor for TheGrio and can be found on Twitter (@Luvvie), Facebook and Instagram.