An historic Black church in Charleston, S.C., has been hit by an act of racist terrorism. The nine people killed on June 17 may not be victims of the systematic racism of the police and courts that the Black Lives Matter movement has been combatting. They also may not be the victims of an organized conspiracy — that remains to be seen. But their deaths were not accidental.
The killings took place in a local atmosphere where it is normal for the state government to fly the flag of slavery on its lawn. Where the local cops have mingled with the Ku Klux Klan and recruited their members. And vice versa.
It’s a national atmosphere where capitalist corporate media hacks can call African-American youths “thugs” on network and cable television. An atmosphere where cops gather in demonstrations to demand their “right” to shoot Black and other people of color at will, without question or redress. A country where the airwaves and written words are still heavy with racism 150 years after slavery’s official end.
Those in power are already calling the suspect, Dylann Roof, a “lone, deranged individual.” If this individual is guilty of pulling the trigger, however, there is no doubt that his “derangement” was crafted in a society steeped in racism. Assuming the media reports are accurate, the suspect felt comfortable wearing the symbols of apartheid South Africa and racist, colonial Rhodesia — the country that is now independent and named Zimbabwe. And according to survivors, he repeated the vile lies racists have used for centuries to focus anger at Black men.
Those who fell from his bullets were women and men, churchgoers and political activists, union members and people who fought for their rights. Their church was the church of Denmark Vesey, whose name will live in the history of the fight for freedom because he made plans in 1822 for a massive slave uprising in the city of Charleston. Only torture and executions by the slave masters were able to prevent it.
As with all those who have died on the front lines of the struggles for rights, the cause of those just murdered in Denmark Vesey’s church should be taken up by all who want justice in this country and in the world.
Trade unions, rights organizations, progressive political organizations from all communities in the United States should rally together and bring this message to the streets across the country:
Zero tolerance for racism against Black people and any people of color! Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with all who are victims of racist police violence! Class solidarity of all working people, who must stand together to win rights for all!