We don’t need more conversations about race. We need conversations about white supremacy and how to end it.
Nine black lives were taken in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week by a young white man carrying out the legacy of white supremacy. He sat beside them for an hour before he began shooting.
May the families and communities of Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons and DePayne Middleton-Doctor be supported in their grief and rage.
A 5-year-old child survived the massacre by pretending to be dead. I ask my white people to take a moment of silence and imagine this child laying on the ground, among murdered adults, her body telling her that she had to lie as still as the dead in order to live. Five years old.
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white male shooter, was apprehended “without incident” while still armed, having just shot and killed 9 people in a church. In contrast, remember the police murder of Tamir Rice, 12 years old and black, sitting in a park with a toy gun.
I hear black people saying, “What do we have to do to stay alive?” and asking where they can possibly be safe.
The message, delivered at the barrel of a gun and then affirmed in the courtrooms of this country is that if you are black: Don’t play. Don’t swim in a public pool. Don’t walk home alone at night in a hoodie with Skittles and Arizona iced tea. Don’t pray in a church. Don’t breathe.
Is this how we want to live? Is this how we want our neighbors to live? BELIEVE that there is no being neutral on this moving train. We are either moving with the current, moving with white supremacy, or we are moving for collective healing and liberation.
For those of us white people living in this time and place, who think that in apartheid South Africa we would have actively opposed white supremacist rule, who think that if we’d been alive during the civil rights era we’d have been Freedom Riders or at least supported the sit-ins, if you would have actively condemned the Birmingham church bombing as a terrorist act … don’t sleep on this moment we live in now in which you, too, are being called to take a stand.
The killing of black people in this country must stop, but it won’t until and unless we demand it. Black communities are in motion for justice, like the national leaders of Movement for Black Lives convening last week in Detroit. For the rest of us, we must get on the right side of history putting our values into action.
Some ways to do that include:
n Join a national action initiated by Southerners on New Ground by calling in to conservative talk radio shows across the country and speaking out against white supremacy.
n Send your condolences to the families of those lost and the people of Charleston (you can sign online with Color of Change.org).
n Read up on what Black leaders are saying, and use pieces like the online statement from Black Lives Matter to start a conversation with white people about the deeply embedded anti-Black racism in this country.
Clare Bayard is a co-founder of the Catalyst Project, a center for political education and movement building based in the San Francisco Bay Area.