Nine souls have been laid to rest as the nation still grapples with the many issues and questions surrounding the June 17 massacre inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in South Carolina.
The unconscionable mass shooting carried out by a lone assassin apparently driven by racist motives has heightened discussions on race and racism in America and led to renewed calls to rid the nation of a flag many consider a symbol of racial intolerance at best, and pure hate at worst. While the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, supposedly left an online manifesto outlining his hatred for non-whites – Blacks in particular – it may never be fully understandable as to how a person could enter a church, allegedly sit and interact for an hour, then callously open fire and kill nine human beings – two pastors and one an 87-year-old woman.
In the wake of the act that many are calling domestic terrorism, the country is simultaneously mourning while trying to heal. For those on the front lines of the fight for full equality, they say the heinous act of murder has left them more resolute to end injustice and a culture of white supremacy.
“(When I heard about the killings) there was a thought of pure devastation. I was saddened, hurt, outraged, but unfortunately not surprised,” said the Rev. Nazim Fakir, pastor of St. Peter’s AME Church, 401 E. 41st St., Minneapolis. “I wasn’t surprised because I’ve been paying attention to events in this nation, and while many mistakenly thought we were in a post-racial society with the election of Barack Obama, that’s just not the case.”
The president of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP, Nekima Levy-Pounds agreed that there has been a marked rise in racial animosity directed towards people of color. She said rise in animosity probably is a byproduct of the country electing its first Black president.
“There is a question of whether electing a Black president has played a role in the rise of racial enemies around the country,” said Levy-Pounds. “Some contend there is a population that feels threatened by having a Black president. “It shows we still have a very, very long way to go to heal the racial divide.”
Levy-Pounds said the call from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to take down the Confederate flag that flies over the state’s capitol is a step in the right direction. Haley’s call is pretty significant because she is a Republican, and members of that party have been opposed to such an act in the past. Levy-Pounds said the flag itself is a symbol of hate and show’s some in America are not willing to deal with the elephant in the room.
“I don’t think we’ve been honest in the role slavery and Jim Crow have played in this country’s history,” said Levy-Pounds. “We still live in a society that is not racially equal. We have a lot of unfinished business.”
Fakir said the act of shooting people in a place of worship and the particular place of worship was a calculated decision.
“It says a lot about how strong evil can be and how evil the racist agenda can be,” said Fakir. “I feel that particular church was chosen for a reason because of the history of the church and because the pastor was such a leader in the community. To violate a church … a place of worship … is the worst kind of terror that could be brought upon a people.”
Fakir said in wake of the act of terror, he has had conversations with his church’s trustees and the men of the church to be vigilant regarding parishioner’s safety, but he said his church shall remain accessible to all.
“We are by no means going to let this act keep us from being an open and welcoming church,” said Fakir.