On Wednesday (June 17), 21-year-old shooting suspect, Dylann Roof, opened fire during a Bible study session at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Six females and three males were killed, including South Carolina Senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
As the nation tries to make sense of the heinous hate crime, VIBE reflects on last night’s events and weighs in on the current state of America.
When you’re covered in black skin, there are a list of things you can’t do in America without putting your life in danger. Now, added to that list is going to the house of the Lord.
Buying Skittles and wearing a hoodie has proven to be detrimental. Celebrating your bachelor party the night before your wedding day will merit you 50 shots, while holding your wallet will earn you 44 bullets. Blasting what some deem to be loud, ghetto rap music while at a Florida gas station will get you killed and running away from police means you are to be shot in the back. Let’s not forget having your hands raised as you surrender is now grounds to be murdered and have your body lay on display in the sweltering August sun for hours. So yes, black people in America are well-versed on what we should not do.
But the shooting in Charleston is different. Worshipers have long sought out refuge in the four walls of their church home, whether it be for Sunday service, bible study or simply to fellowship among fellow believers, and for someone, unprovoked, to open fire as attendees bowed their heads, closed their eyes and prayed is an unexplainable evil, a robust cowardice, and has ignited a very palpable fear once again in the black community.
Are we now being told worship will also get us killed?
I am a writer. I’ve been a writer for many moons, and seldom am I at a loss for words, yet the shooting in Charleston has rendered me speechless. All I can do now is pray, but as the recent events showcase, I must do so from the safety of my own home.
—Shenequa Golding, Editor
Hearing the news about the about Charleston shooting struck a particular nerve with me this morning. The details about about the victims in the prayer group sent a chill through my spine as I instantly thought about my own mother, who attends her prayer group five days a week at 6am. She’s mostly there to pray for me, my well-being and for me to have a successful career. As I realized the victims very well could have been members of my family, I could feel the heaviness creeping to my eyes. I couldn’t tell if I was feeling the burdens of sadness because I became conscious that similar heinous acts of violence could very well happen at my mother’s church or if the death of nine innocent churchgoers was plaguing my soul. This is life in America now.
—Mikey Fresh, Music Editor
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I hate that the first thing that came to mind when I heard about the Charleston, SC shooting was, “Another one?” Another mass killing? Another white gunman dismissed as an isolated incident or a mental illness discrepancy? Another set of black lives erased from Earthly existence? Another day we have to prove our lives are worth even a morsel of a damn?
Every day living in America feels like a game of Russian Roulette. There’s honestly no safe place to go where people of every color, religion or cultural background can feel safe going about their day to day lives. It’s disturbing to know that the one institution constructed as a place of peace and a safe haven for Charleston’s black community was reduced to a floating target for a trigger happy (alleged) white supremacist. What kind of hatred is brewing so feverishly inside the heart of 21-year-old Dylann Roof—the confirmed suspect in last night’s shooting—that he NEEDED to go kill off innocent people during their time of prayer and worship?
As a person of color, how can you not feel helpless in this country at times like these? The same country that personally saw to it that we stayed at the bottom of the bottom, and continues to do so in subtle, underhanded ways and with one-sided public policies. We’re not wanted here, and it’s a waiting game until the next moment presents itself for American purists to let us know exactly how much they want us gone.
Which city will be the next to be rocked with a hate crime? Who will earn the next roadside memorial, hashtag and placement on an inner city mural? Which state will slap its residents of color in the face by saying that, legally, there’s not enough evidence for justice and no realistic way to protect black lives? The worst feeling in the world is not knowing any of the answers.
—Stacy-Ann Ellis, Assistant Editor
I’m still struggling to make sense of America. Especially when news of a neighborhood watch captain is acquitted in fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager, who just bought Skittles and Arizona iced tea. When a 43-year-old man is wrestled to the ground in a chokehold by a police officer and elicits his final words, “I can’t breathe.” When a cop shoots an 18-year-old man and lets his body lay out on the Ferguson street for hours. When nine people in South Carolina are shot during bible study by a 21-year-old who opens fire at a church…
I’m not the type to wear my emotions on my timeline but I can’t suppress the heaviness on my heart and mind, wondering how many headlines depicting people of color dying from police brutality, gun violence and hate crimes need to be published before a real change comes. If this is the so-called Land of the Free, why doesn’t it feel like it?
—Adelle Platon, Associate Editor
As I stood in my living room, watching the underwhelming media coverage on TV this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how 2015 has already been a year filled with disappointment, sadness and deep, long sighs.
Will hateful racism ever die its overdue death? When will the excuse of “mental illness” cease to exist as the cause of one’s actions rooted in anger? Why is a rhetorical question being posed every time one person of one race causes physical and fatal harm on that of another? What ever happened with that pool party incident? Why are we so focused on Rachel Dolezal’s wanna-be blackness more so than the Haitian deportation in the Dominican Republic?
As a Black woman, I can only pray for the remaining six months of this year… and for my future children.
—Eboseta Christine, Social Managing Editor
A lot has changed in the last 50 years, and yet nothing has changed at all. By the looks of our social climate, we are merely living in a remix of the 1960s. Though tweaked with considerable new elements such as the Internet and the presence of a black president, the undertones of racism and hatred make for the same song and frankly, I’ve grown weary of singing it.
Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair were just four little girls who went to church on September 15, 1963. Likely coerced by their God-fearing elders to sit still and pay attention in the house of the Lord, those four little girls saw their final day at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham after Ku Klux Klan member Robert Chambliss bombed the church with dynamite, leaving them dead. Targeted as predominantly black church and hub for civil rights protesters, the 16th Street was punished for being a vehicle of faith and peace. The fact that this story is even remotely familiar to what transpired at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church yesterday – in 2015 – is equally saddening and mind-blowing.
This is evidence that the wool has been pulled over our eyes. In this sociopolitical remix, the lyrics are muffled, murmured and interpolated to trick us into thinking that times have changed. We’ve been hoodwinked into faux freedom. We’ve been deceived into imaginary equality. But if we slow down the track and listen with a more meticulous ear, we realize that this is just like that other song – the one where we are slaughtered, imprisoned and degraded. We’re just bopping our heads to a new beat.
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to change CDs.
—Iyana Robertson, News Editor
Rage. The kind you have where you don’t yell out and go all crazy, but the quiet storm rage is what I have right now. It’s been brewing long before Trayvon’s unfortunate death and following circumstances. What I personally went through in Charleston, South Carolina, dealing with the affairs of my ailing grandfather in that town would make anyone lose it. A lot of the issues I dealt with was being a black male questioning the movements, decisions and authority of those in power that preyed on the weakened condition of elderly people of color. Yet I also noticed the dire situations of the black community in the downtown area of Charleston. The youth, looking lost and unstructured and aimlessly wandering…just hurt. Then seeing the hate by some that looked and lived differently was also a huge problem. Was it all white directed? It wasn’t totally, but those in position to make things harder than they needed to be were white and seemed to revel in making things tough. I understood then that things were racially motivated as the white families going through similar processes as mine weren’t dealing with the same obstacles and were given special treatment.
Mindstate. Racism is taught. The battle rapper Hitman Holla of St. Louis said something profound on Instagram about this. If the young man that did this heinous crime is indeed the one, and did this out of racism or black hate, he’s only 21. He doesn’t even know why he hates black people. He can’t! But I have a bigger issue. I don’t even think he’s only motivated by black hate. I think there is a planned angle to stop the momentum that State Senator/Pastor Clementa Pinckney had going with challenging police law and the push for cops to wear body cameras in South Carolina.
The 41 year-old Democratic Senator was connected to Al Sharpton during the national news story of Walter Scott being shot down by the hands of South Carolina authorities. Pinckney was highly educated, spiritually focused and married with two kids. Was this mass shooting to cover up a hit on this man? I question that motive. I really do. So many thoughts and emotions are traveling through me right now. The main one is sorrow for all the lives lost in this tragedy. My heart and prayers go to the victims and their families.
Now that this subhuman has been caught, I hope justice is served. Will things ever change? Will this moment of rage be the turning point for modern civil rights like the bombing of that Birmingham, Alabama church that killed four little black girls in 1963? How much more can a race of people take? I hope we don’t have to answer that last question anytime soon.
—Datwon Thomas, Editor-in-Chief