On Wednesday night around 9 p.m., a white gunman entered into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine African Americans before fleeing causing an overnight manhunt for the killer.
Many are calling this a hate crime and blatant disregard for black lives while civil rights activists are questioning “Why isn’t this considered an act of terrorism?”
The Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 and the anti-Islamic shooting in Garland, Texas last month were both deemed an act of terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists, but assaults against African Americans and Muslim Americans are rarely seen as such. Many argue that white assailants are less likely to be viewed as terrorists by authorities.
“We have been conditioned to accept that if the violence is committed by a Muslim, then it is terrorism,” stated Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group in Washington. “If the same violence is committed by a white supremacist or apartheid sympathizer and is not a Muslim, we start to look for excuses — he might be insane, maybe he was pushed too hard,” continued Mr. Awad.
Fourteen hours after the church shooting, 21 year old Dylann Storm Roof was arrested and he was charged Friday with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, according to police, if convicted Roof could face the death penalty NY Times.
The massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is one amongst many heinous attacks targeting predominantly black churches in the United States.
There is an unfortunate history of violence against black churches and the Ku Klux Klan members have been the perpetrators for many church bombing targeting blacks in the United States.
Following the election of President Obama in 2008, Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, a predominantly black church was set on fire. Three white men were arrested for the crime, two pleaded guilty and the third was convicted and sentenced to thirteen years in prison.
On January 8, 1996 Molotov cocktails, kerosene and gunpowder were used to set ablaze Inner City Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and racial slurs were discovered on the church’s door.
In Baton Rouge and Baker, Louisiana on February 1, 1996, a group of churches within a six mile radius of each other, Cypress Grove Baptist, St. Paul’s Free Baptist, Thomas Chapel Benevolent Society and Sweet Home Baptist were set ablaze on the anniversary of the sit-in in Greensboro, N.C.
June 21, 1995 Macedonia Baptist Church in Manning, South Carolina was set on fire by four former members of the KKK. The day before Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in Greeleyville, SC was set ablaze.
On June 16, 1964, as parishioners were leaving Mount Zion A.M.E. church, they were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan and the church was burned down. The intended victim was civil rights activist, Michael Schwerner who wasn’t there but was later beaten and killed on June 21, 1964 along with fellow activists, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. Their mysterious disappearance and murder is depicted in the movie “Mississippi Burning.”
The tragic event on September 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama is probably most etched in our minds. Four little girls lost their lives when the KKK bombed the 16th Street Church and injured more than 20 other church members. This attack made national and international news and narrowed in on the struggle for civil rights in Alabama.