Charleston killings 'a symbolic attack on the Black community'

June 18, 2015
Image from TeleSUR English.

The murder of nine people in a historic Black South Carolina church is both a deep tragedy and a strong symbolic attack on the Black community, civil rights activist and writer Kevin Alexander Gray told TeleSUR English.

Three men and six women, including South Carolina Democrat Senator Reverand Clementa Pinckney, were shot dead in a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17.

“If you're going to attack a symbol of Black history and pride in South Carolina, for a racist Emanuel AME church would be a logical target,” Gray, author of Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence, told TeleSUR. “But I am still shocked that the people in that church were murdered in such a way.”

Gray, who knew Pinckney personally as a friend and fellow organiser, explained the “Mother” Emanuel AME Church is symbolic not only for the Black community in South Carolina, but on a national level.

“Mother Emanuel AME Church was the first African Methodist church founded in South Carolina. It is the Mother church because it is one of the most historic churches in the South.”

Gray added that it is the church is home to the largest Black congregation south of Baltimore. For Gray, the racism of the attack is blatant, justifying the condemnation of the shooting as a hate crime that underlines deeper racial problems in the country.

“The South Carolina statehouse flies the confederate flag that represents white supremacy, the same white supremacy the shooter wears on his jacket,” said Gray, referring to a photo of the 21-year-old suspect Dylann Roof wearing a jacket displaying patches of the apartheid-era South Africa flag and flag of the British colony Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

TeleSUR correspondent in Washington Jorge Gestoso said the tragic shooting was amplifying discussion on racism in the United States and bringing critical questions about the lasting legacy of white supremacy to forefront.

Gestoso said: “Many observers and analysts are questioning whether having a Black president has contributed to resurfacing hate crimes ... It seems white supremacy is still alive and kicking.”

Noting that reactions to the shooting include shock and horror from many, Gestoso said that the shooting is bringing to the surface “serious problems at the foundation of the country”.

“We have to recognise that this type of crimes do not happen in other advanced countries of the world, and it doesn't happen with the same frequency,” said Gestoso. “There are big question marks about the symbolism of this event.”

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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