The Charleston Massacre: A Culture of Terrorism Denied

David Goldman/AP Photo

David Goldman/AP Photo

I have always tried to remain fair and balanced. As an interculturalist it has been my life's work to create mutual understanding and provide objective mediation across cultures. But I have to admit, I am struggling to see the other side in the case of the historical Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, SC.

For those who don't know, last night a 21 year-old white male walked into a historical African-American church during a prayer meeting. After entering the meeting he asked for well-known and endeared pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, sat next him and commenced to join the pastor and his parishioners in prayer for an hour. Once that hour was up he began a shooting spree, reloading his gun five times. He declared that he was there to shoot black people, stating, "you rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go." When he finally stopped firing he had murdered nine people. Three men, including the Reverend and six women. Leaving only three left to tell the world of this injustice. The assailant left one survivor with a message for us all. "I'm not going to kill you, I'm going to spare you, so you can tell them what happened."

So now you have the facts. And here is my perspective.

Let me start by saying, I will not use the killer's name in this post because he is irrelevant. He is one of many who have come before and one of many who will come again if we do not put an end to this ever present and senseless, hate-based violence. What I will declare is that he, and others who commit these kinds of acts are without a doubt terrorists.

Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as, "the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal." And so I stand behind my declaration that this was an act of terrorism. I am not writing to debate this fact. I am writing to ask when we will begin to recognized these acts by Caucasian-Americans as terrorism when the word clearly fits.

In his piece, “Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness,” Tim Wise addresses this issue of terrorism and whiteness in reference to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of a pantheon of white people who have engaged in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize — and specifically to kill — but whose actions have resulted in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.
Among these: Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and Justin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Jeffery Harbin and Byron Williams and Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover and Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver and Mark Wayne McCool and Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. and Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Cody Seth Crawford and Ralph Lang and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn.

Do you see this list?! Can you see how long it is?

Now use your imagination to compare it to the list of brown people, Blacks, Latinos, and Arabs whose names were quickly added to the terrorism list. Remember how "they" instantly become a representative of all of "us," inciting fear, rage, the siege of nations and the dehumanization of many people.

And let's be real, as CNN article, "Call it Terrorism in Charleston" points out, "deadly acts of terrorism by virulent racists and anti-government extremists have been more common in the United States than deadly acts of jihadist terrorism since 9/11." The article also provides a list of these acts and those who committed them.

I started this article by calling myself out for being a struggling and biased interculturalist. So let me say this in closing:

I want mutual understanding. I want Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. I want equality and equity. But that will never happen until we give the lives of everyone the same value and respect. That will not happen until a young white man who goes into a black church known as the historical site of slave revolt -on the anniversary of that revolt- and murders nine people is called what he really is. A terrorist.

I dedicate this piece to Assata Shakur, Nelson Mandela, Ceasar Chavez, Fidel Castro and the Muslim women of France who can't even take their children to an amusement park because they wear a hijab.