While in South Carolina, my wife Gloria and I visited Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where the nine people were murdered by a white supremacist. Murdered in cold blood in their sanctuary. Their sanctuary. Oh, another mass killing, people seem to be saying. White people, anyway. This is not Aurora. This is not Columbine. This is different. Those were random white folks going off on their brethren for picking on them. Not to minimize the trauma. But Charleston is different. Charleston represents a significant escalation of the war against black people, perpetrated by a growing white terrorist network that has, among other things, permeated the leadership of police departments all over the country.
During the service, we were treated to a song by guest Pharrell Williams, “Freedom,” a powerful tribute to the resilience of the Charleston community.
I’m generally not in favor of capital punishment. But in the case of Dylan Roof, I could make an exception. Except the process takes so long. How about sentencing him to life in prison in one of the segregated African American maximum security prison wings?
A significant escalation of the war against Black people. Maybe I’m projecting, but the trauma seemed palpable on the streets of Charleston. In the more touristy, gentrified areas, there were few black people. We counted 6 in two hours on one street. Maybe it’s always that way. Maybe segregation in Charleston hasn’t diminished over the years as we would like to think. But I’m talking the workers too, the waitresses, bartenders, cooks, tchotchke sales persons. I asked some Black people what was going on, and they said gentrification — that other front in the war against Black people — had decimated the Black community on the Charleston peninsula.
But imagine you were Black and you lived in Charleston. Maybe you went to that church sometime, maybe not. Suddenly some of your most powerful leaders of are summarily assassinated. Nine of them. Pillars of your community, the people who saved countless young people from the ravages of the street.
If it were me, I’d suggest it was time for at least a short retreat until people figure out their next move. It would be helpful if our national leaders were focused on how to protect the vulnerable Black population from white supremacists inside and outside police departments.
So far, none of our national leaders has given more than lip service to addressing the escalation of the war against Black people. This includes our beloved Bernie Sanders. I support him to the hilt, which is why I think it’s crucial to bring up criticism when the situation calls for it. Bernie has not incorporated, either organizationally or ideologically, the Black Lives Matter movement in his campaign. Case in point: Why hasn’t the campaign joined in the Black Lives Matter demand for an additional debate that focuses on Black lives?
Clinton is all over Bernie about his gun remarks in the debate, but listening to the debate, I heard what she heard, a remark about how a rural state and an urban state have different attitudes toward guns. Not an untrue remark, just sufficiently insensitive racially to give Hillary’s vultures an opening.
If Bernie loses the primary, it will be “primarily” because he was – we were – unable to harness the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement in his campaign. In their defense of Black lives, they are leading the struggle for a society which values human capital over financial capital. And, this loss will be what it will be, a lesson for us on where we progressives need to concentrate our energy in the years to come.