President Obama delivers eulogoy for Rev. Pinckney
Laced and Layered in History
On the evening of June 17, 2015, fifty-eight years after the Little Rock Nine integrated the first public, all-white, high school in the South, nine black people, in Charleston, SC, now reminiscently referred to as the Charleston Nine, were mowed down by a lone, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, twenty-one-year-old Caucasian male.
He carried out death in the most vile and heinous way conceivable, leaving no doubt about his feelings of racial equality and race relations in the United States of America.
Dylann Roof, the mass killer, was intent on sending a message, loudly and clearly, that he was attacking a history, in his mind, which had undermined the superiority of the white race. So that there would be no confusion about his act and what it was deigned to represent, he embedded as much history as he could in his slaughtering of the outstanding, nine black, racially and civically progressive leaders in Charleston, SC.
On that fateful evening, Dylann Roof’s infamously historic act symbolized his disdain for blacks and racial equality and his displaced blame of them and their kind for the mortal shift or decline of white superiority and supremacy here at home and around the world.
Dylann Roof chose historic sites to launch his massacre of the Charleston Nine –symbolic of the black race and of the strength he associated with them, which he most feared and hated. Charleston, the oldest city in South Carolina, is symbolic of the antebellum South and its rich, white supremacy cultural legacies of bygone days.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 because of its pro-slavery, white supremacy culture and traditions. The Emanuel AME Church is the oldest black church in the South and perhaps in the country, dating back to the 1800s and serving as the only seat of empowerment available to the slaves and subsequently to black communities in contemporary times.
The Charleston Nine also symbolized a kind of historic revenge for white supremacists against the Little Rock Nine who desegregated the first all-white public high school in the South, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. That event, to white supremacists, was the beginning of the second fall of white supremacy as a way of life in the South and throughout the country.
The first fall was, of course, the collapse of the Confederacy to the Union, thus ending the Civil War, in 1865, one hundred fifty years ago.
Roof killed nine people for each of the Little Rock desegregaters; including the same number of males and females in both instances of the Little Rock Nine and the Charleston Nine–three males and six females.
The Little Rock Central High School, an institution supposedly desecrated by the advent of desegregation, and the Emanuel AME Church, a holy institution desecrated by murder in its sanctuary, also held symbolic parallels in the massacre scheme. Finally, Roof also wore flags of the former Rhodesia and South Africa when they existed under colonial and apartheid regimes, white supremacy rule. This signified a mindset, favoring white supremacy, racial oppression, and inequalities.
Dylann Roof was acting as a representative of small misguided groups of white supremacists, bent on acting against history and trying to roll back time to historically idealized periods in which they imagined the white race supreme.
If such idealized periods ever existed in history, members of these small misguided groups would have been marginalized by powerful white people, just as they are today. But because of skin color, marginalized whites are deluded into thinking that their station in life has been compromised by others who do not share their skin color or physical connections and attributes to powerful whites and that their lot in life would be better –more like the lives of powerful whites– if they did not have to compete with other racial groups, whom they regard as their inferiors because of skin color.
Consequently, they believe that if they eliminated those who do not share physical attributes with themselves and powerful whites, their life station would improve. What they fail to realize and accept, however, is that, although they may share physical attributes with powerful whites, powerful whites do not accept or identify with them, except to use them as scapegoats and buffers against other races.
These small groups of outcast whites do not share bloodlines with their white powerful counterpart; but the same cannot be said of Descendants of enslaved people in America —another reason that they hate and resent black Americans so much and why they are taught to keep blacks oppressed, despised, and deprived so that poor white outcasts, such as they, can rise.
Ironically, though, these small groups of outcast whites are observing that even what they have been taught for generations to believe about themselves and other races is not holding up against the changing times. The reason is that, in the post-racial era, poor whites and blacks –and whites and blacks in general– are interracially marrying and propagating together, more than ever before in our history. Thus racial progress is being made, in spite of the racial hatred small groups of bigots are trying to keep alive.
Given what we know now about the symbolic parallels between the Little Rock Nine and the Charleston Nine, the massacre of the Charleston Nine was both a horrendously sadistic and terroristic attack, as well as a physical and figurative attack, on civil and equal rights between blacks and whites in our country.
So, where to from here when a people’s right to life and fulfillment of their highest levels of humanness and aspirations are desecrated, threatened, trampled on, bedeviled, spoiled, betrayed and eroded, perpetually, and persistently denied?
Dylann Roof stated that he wanted to spark a race war in this country. However, ironically, he may have sparked an energy that will catapult us back onto the road of racial healing and unparalleled racial unity once and for all times. He may have helped us see more clearly now what we saw only darkly before so that we all can get on with the business that compels and propels us forward as one American people, representatives of equality and social justice for all.
In the aftermath of the Charleston Nine, black and white leaders around the country seem to be speaking the same rhetoric, which sounds a lot like this:
“Everyone needs a lift. We must seek out opportunities to unite us all as one people, one nation. We should look for what unites us and ask whether we all have opportunities to rise, to become someone special. We have to look for solutions where everyone has a win-win. The Supreme Court is the law of the land. It should serve as our nation’s moral compass, especially to states where there is none. Our Supreme Justices must not kowtow to status quo but must rise to serve us all equally.
“Symbols of bigotry, racial hatred, injustices, and inequality have no place in 21st Century United States of America. Our leaders must move beyond symbols to address racial and economic disparities, joblessness, police brutalities, problems that have been systemic for so long, including our educational system that leaves so many of our children feeling that they are not getting the education they need. We need to take off the blinders and stop remaining silent about what we see and know about the inequalities of life. Talking the talk must end so that the talk can become deeds. We need more deeds and less talk.
“Acts of desecration against the black race for over more than a half century, more than 50 years, into post-racial United States of America must not be tolerated today. They must end now!”
The lingering echo of the question, asked all too infrequently of us, is “Are you present and poised for change?”
We are waiting and watching you for answers in deeds.
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