The terror and murder of innocents in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church a few days ago has rightfully sparked a discussion of our country’s problem with race–especially the fact that on a daily basis, black people are targets of white hatred. And, in the case of 21 year-old Dylann Roof, a white racist from Eastover, South Carolina, his hatred led him to plot and murder nine individuals gathered for prayer in their own church. They were:
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Johnson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 49
Myra Thompson, 49
Say their names. This is a constant refrain, because this story isn’t just about the murderer, it’s as much about those who were killed and the devastation that their families and community are left to deal with.
It is also time that South Carolina, in particular, remove one of the most divisive symbols on its Capitol grounds–the Confederate battle flag. It’s the same flag that Dylann Roof sported on the front plate of his car and one, among other white supremacist flags, that he swore allegiance to.
Governor Nikki Haley feigns surprise at how someone could enter a place of worship to kill people, while also suggesting that this flag is a-okay with business CEOs.
First, Gov. Haley needs to get her head out of the sand. This wasn’t simply an attack on people of faith. It was an act of racial terror on a specific church. Anyone with a bare bones understanding of the state’s history, which should include Haley, knows exactly why Roof targeted Emanuel AME.
Second, whether or not CEOs have a problem with the Confederate battle flag on capitol grounds is beside the point. The South Carolina State House is the people’s house. It doesn’t belong to the CEO of Volvo or any other business considering locating a factory in South Carolina. It belongs to all of South Carolina’s citizens, not just the ones who are clinging to a relic of white supremacy.
So that flag, the one that inspires racial hatred and murder and hopes of a race war, has no place on the grounds of state government. Shamefully, it flew even as The Honorable Senator Clementa Pinckney, murdered in the church he pastored, was being eulogized inside the senate chamber where he once served.
It insults his service to South Carolina. It insults all those who were murdered as they worshipped. It insults black and white citizens of the state alike, and it must come down.
It’s a small gesture and not a salve for all that is wrong, but it might begin a process of racial healing that is much needed right now.