This Narrative Perfectly Captures what Black People Are Thinking Right Now
Last night, around 11:30 PM, I had finally decided to get into bed. I made the conscious decision to turn my phone off, as well as the television. It was time to “power down.” I’d had my hand glued to my phone, and I was actually quite ashamed. I had become engrossed in this Rachel Dolezal scandal. But tonight, I had decided that I wouldn’t give her story anymore attention. I wanted to free myself from her. She’d taken up too much of my time, and was beginning to steal my peace. Just as I scrolled through my Twitter feed for the last time, I came across a heart wrenching story. “9 Fatalities at African American Church in Charleston” the headline read.
I scrambled for details. I wanted to know more. I turned on the television. No one was covering it. The only “breaking news” CNN had been reporting was on Rachel Dolezal, and the prison break we’d been hearing about for a week. Nothing on the Black lives that had just been lost. Taken.
It's rather unfortunate that @CNN is reporting on #RachelDolezal at this moment vs reporting on the #CharlestonShooting #Charleston
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) June 18, 2015
Then I found a link. Shortly after 9 PM last night, a 21-year old white man opened fire on a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Six women and three men were among the dead. A five year old girl survived after hiding and playing dead. My heart dropped.
“We believe this is a hate crime; that is how we are investigating it,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a dawn news conference.
Something extremely terrible has happened to my mom tonight, please pray for her and my family. Pray asap
— Chris Singleton (@csingleton__2) June 18, 2015
“9 Dead in ‘Hate Crime’ Shooting.” The words echoed in my head. I wondered who else’s heart, soul and mind was empty.
What can you even say to someone at a time like this? How can you comfort someone who’s lost their grandmother, their mother, their friend? How do we make sense of something so senseless?
A long, painful, deep cry. I’d been holding back the tears for some time now. The last time I really cried like this was when Tamir Rice died. Shot down by police for playing with a toy gun…while Black. His mother had to bury him. He was 12. I guess that wasn’t too long ago…
Emanuel AME is a staple in the Black community. There is a rich history.
Built in 1891, the church is listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Affectionately called “Mother Emanuel” by local residents, it’s easy to understand the connection people had with the church. Perhaps what stands out most about this church’s history is one of the founders, Denmark Vesey.
Vesey was responsible for organizing a slave revolt back in the 1820’s, and lost his life, along with 34 others because of it. They were killed by police. The church was burned to the ground.
Even as this community was forced to sift through the ashes of their own church, forced to remember the racism, the venom, the horror, it didn’t stop them from gathering. After the mass hysteria that occurred when Denmark and other leaders of the movement were arrested, members held underground worship services from 1834 through 1865. During this time, African-American churches had been outlawed.
Black people could not pray to their own GOD without fear of being harassed, arrested, and without a doubt, ultimately killed. White folk didn’t want Black people conspiring to be free. As I write these words, it pains to me to know that we still can’t worship in peace to this day, and most importantly, we still aren’t “free.” History repeats itself.
So I thought, “Where CAN we be Black, and where is God now?”
As these people mourn, I wrestle with these concepts. My mind shifts to the Four Little Girls in Birmingham, Alabama. I think about my parents. My grandparents. My aunts and uncles. It could have been them. It could have been any of us. Five decades later, our experiences run parallel.
No, I am not being made to sit in the back of buses, I am not being attacked by dogs, or sprayed with hoses, but the trauma, the Black experience, the disregard for Black life is still present. It still makes the air thick, and it still presses on our lungs, and we still…can’t…breathe.
Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be white in America. I close my eyes and imagine all the things I wouldn’t have to worry about. I imagine being able to play outside with a toy gun, I imagine being able to walk down the street (and take up most of the sidewalk), I imagine being able to wear a hoodie. I imagine being able to use slang and not have people think I’m uneducated, being able to wear my hair how I choose. Being able to yell, being able to drive at night, being able to walk into fitting rooms without the store employee counting your items three times, “just to be sure.” I imagine the freedom of being able to express myself without being the “Angry Black woman”, the convenience of not being the only Black person at work, the privilege of getting the benefit of the doubt…among the most basic things…the freedom to PRAY.
WHERE can we be Black?
“You’re taking over our country!” the shooter screamed, before he killed nine people in cold blood. The shooter was 21-year-old Dylan Storm Roof.
This isn’t a new rant. Bigots all across the nation have been telling Black people to “Go back to Africa” since we got here. (Well not exactly since we got here. They wanted us here earlier on to pick cotton, build this country and breast feed their babies…but you know, after that, some of them had gotten tired of us.)
Dylan Storm Roof is one of those people. He’s tired of Black people “taking over” his country, and raping his women. He’s tired of all of our lowsy contributions to these united states, like the the light bulb, traffic lights, the gas mask, 3D graphics, blood banks and open heart surgery. I’m sure we could all do without air conditioning units, cell phones, doorknobs, hair brushes and stoves!
Dylan, let me be quite frank with you. If Black people went “back to Africa” and took with them what they brought, you’d be left with nothing. And I won’t even address the rape allegations, because…slavery.
WHERE can we be Black?
Now people are asking that the people of Charleston remain nonviolent. I have a problem with that. Not that I have a problem with people being nonviolent. I have a problem with people asking BLACK people to be nonviolent when acts of violence are perpetrated against them every day at the hands of the state, and racist terrorists with an agenda. At what point is enough, enough? How much more of our blood has to be shed before we realize that nonviolence is great in theory, but hasn’t really helped us much? I don’t know the answer. But I DO know that I don’t like the idea of Black people having to play docile while being attacked nonstop without consequence. I say No.
Is this what we all are supposed to stand for? Is this what we’re pledging allegiance to?
You can pray. That’s fine. But this requires action. If you’re asking yourself what Jesus would do, here’s exhibit A:
My next concern is how this man will be coddled by mainstream media. They’re sure to diagnose him with a mental illness and remind of us of how much he loved adopting kittens from the SPCA and helping old ladies cross the street. He surely will not be labeled a terrorist.
Since most of these euro terrorist, killers, murderers, sociopaths are being deemed mentally ill, perhaps most Europeans have the condition
— יהנתן (@Oxy_Jon) June 18, 2015
So 'terrorist' is only reserved for those who are black/brown ?
— annam (@annamramzan) June 18, 2015
If they call this man a terrorist, would have to admit that the U.S. has been terrorizing black folk, on & off the record since its founding
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) June 18, 2015
If Dylan Roof had used a bomb instead of gun he'd be a "terrorist." Instead he's a "shooter." #makesnosense #gunsdontkillpeople
— Seth Herzog (@Thezog) June 18, 2015
Then there are these people. This is racism. This is white privilege. This is no accountability. Being a racist does not require the use of the “N Word.” Apparently Dylan looks like a “light skin black.”
White people would rather pretend to be blind than acknowledge the prospect of a white terrorist #CharlestonShooting pic.twitter.com/Pilr82zFvm
— himbo slice (@MrPooni) June 18, 2015
As this story continues to unfold, and we continue to try and heal our wounds, we know that the wounds will be re-opened soon. We know that salt will be thrown in them, and we know that this will happen again. You see, we cannot CHANGE the minds of racists. Nothing we can do as Black and Brown people will make a racist “like” us, or see our humanity. To them, we are nothing. Dylan shot those people down like they were nothing.
So where can we be safe? Where can we go to fellowship, celebrate, and love on one another? Where can we go in this land, that has our ancestor’s blood on its hands, and not have to think about what history has taught us? When will the assault on our bodies, our culture, our psyche be over? Where can we go to hide? WHERE can we be Black?
Carmen Jones, also known as “KarmaJonez” is a 28 year old Prince George, VA native currently living in ATL. Aside from her PR work, she blogs (KarmaJonezKnows.com), and manages events and clients throughout the city. Determined, passionate, and unyielding, Carmen plans on using her voice and her talents to impact the world.