Terrorist Attack on Black Church in Charleston

[Content Note: Terrorism; racism; death; white supremacy; guns. Video autoplays at first link.]

Last night, a young white man went to a service, a Bible study group, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He asked for the church's pastor, the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, and sat next to him during the study.

Once it had ended, the white man opened fire on the black attendees, killing six women and three men, including Rev. Pinckney. Three others survived. A female survivor reports the man reloaded five times, and that he told them: "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."

The shooter fled, and still remains at large. Charleston is not on lockdown, despite a mass shooting that was the an act of a terrorist, who took more lives than the Boston Bombing.

Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. The Department of Justice has launched a federal civil rights investigation.

In a statement, Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said: "We'll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another."

Oh, Governor Haley. I think you and every member of your party understands what motivates violent hatred very well indeed.

This was not an incomprehensible act, nor was it a "senseless crime." It is a crime that makes a perfect, terrible sense inside of a system of white supremacy upheld by and aggressively defended with violence.

Its perpetrator was not a lone gunman; he was a gunman with the companionship of white supremacy.

He is not a poor lost soul with mental illness; he is a terrorist.

This shit does not happen in a vacuum.

It happens in a white supremacist culture in which black people gunned down by police are thugs and white men who kill black women and men en masse are troubled boys whose mysterious motivations who can't possibly be discerned.

It happens in a culture of anti-blackness in which #BlackLivesMatter is a plea, and in which white people are privileged and exhorted to believe that our lives matter more.

It happens in a culture in which there is more mainstream news coverage of black protesters demonstrating for their very lives, deliberately misrepresenting those protesters as rioting criminals, than there is mainstream news coverage of nine people being slaughtered in an act of racism terrorism by a deliberative white killer who was welcomed into their midst.

It happens in a culture in which a confederate flag is flying at half-mast over the state capitol.

It happens in a culture with a long history of racially-motivated attacks on black churches and the black people who attend them, a culture in which shots were fired into a church in Memphis just this morning.

This shit does not happen in a vacuum.

Unknowable motivations. Senseless crime. Lone gunman. Mentally ill. Isolated incident. Watch for these weasel words and the weasel narratives they serve, urging us to shake our heads instead of our fists.

We should be angry. We all need to be angry.

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My sincerest condolences to the friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow congregants of the people who were killed.

The names of the victims, aside from Rev. Pinckney, have not yet been released. I will update this post with their names when they have been made public.

UPDATE: Four of the victims have been identified as South Carolina State Senator Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, and Tywanza Sanders.

A fifth victim has been identified as Ethel Lee Lance.

A sixth victim has been identified as Myra Thompson.

A seventh victim has been identified as Rev. Daniel L. Simmons.

An eighth victim has been identified as Susie Jackson. She and Ethel Lee Lance were cousins.

The ninth victim has been identified as Rev. Depayne Middleton.

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Commenting Guidelines: Anything even resembling apologia for this act of white supremacist terrorism will be deleted. Anything even resembling policing of black people's emotions will be deleted. Further, this is not the space to work out your white privilege. White people need to be doing that right now, as ever, but that is work to be done with other white people, not in a public forum where people of color who don't have the luxury of ignorance afforded by privilege are obliged to encounter and navigate it as a cost of participation.

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