5 Ways to Take Action after Charleston & Making Connections to Police Violence
by Isaac Lev Szmonko
Before Dylann Storm Roof took the lives of 9 Black people at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston Wednesday, he said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” It is an old story, reinforced by nooses, and chains, and cages, and guns, and laws, and the many other tools of white supremacy.
Roof said he wanted to “start a race war,” but the truth is this country has been in a race war since the first days of indigenous genocide and slavery.
So far this year, 147 Black people have been killed by police. While Dylan Roof sported the insignia of apartheid South Africa, and not a police uniform, he too was violently enforcing the criminalization and dehumanization of Black life. He, too, became a foot soldier of a racist system in which some were, as Audre Lorde and #BlackLivesMatter write, “never meant to survive.”
But this old racist story, and its deathly consequences, have also been defended against by centuries of Black resistance.
We call on the spirit of Ida B. Wells, a key leader of the anti-lynching movement of the early 20th century, and the countless others whose names never made it into our racist and sexist history books. She writes,
“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal….In fact, for all kinds of offenses – and, for no offenses – from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same.”
Wells wrote about how lynching was justified by criminalization, but was actually used against Black people who resisted white supremacy.
It is nearly impossible not to see the parallels today, from police killing or beating people for “resisting arrest,” to Wednesday’s vicious killing in a Black southern church with a long history of resistance.
The Emanuel AME church was co-founded by Denmark Vesey, who played a key role in planning a major slave uprising in Charleston in 1822. The rebellion was stopped before it could begin, and Vesey was hanged along with 34 other organizers. The church was burned to the ground.. This is how white supremacy responds when Black people fight for their freedom.
Today, a resurgence of Black freedom struggle again aims to overthrow white supremacy in the face of brutal repression. The question is, how many of us white people will stand with them?
Here are 5 ways to take action:
- Join or plan a local action where you live tomorrow, Sunday June 21st at 6pm as a part of the National Day of Action to #StandWithCharleston
- Join a national action by Southerners on New Ground by calling in to conservative talk radio shows across the country and speaking out against white supremacy
- Send your condolences to the families of those lost and the people of Charleston
- Read this response by #BlackLivesMatter and use it as a conversation starter with white people to talk about the deeply embedded anti-Black racism in this country.
- Learn about the organizations doing Black liberation work close to where you live, and offer support to their work by volunteering and/or donating.
With so much grief and rage,
Isaac Lev Szmonko