By Clare Bayard
Jun 19, 2015
Nine Black lives were taken in Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church yesterday 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.
In Charleston last night, 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 today '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 today, "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 you want to live? Is this how you want your neighbors to live? BELIEVE that there is no being neutral on this moving train. You are either moving with the current, moving with white supremacy, or you 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 all rise up and demand it. Black communities are in motion for justice, like the national leaders of Movement for Black Lives convening right now in Detroit. For the rest of us, we must get on the right side of history putting our values into action.
Some ways to take action:
- Send your condolences to the families of those lost and the people of Charleston via Color of Change
- Join tomorrow's "White People Take Action for Charleston" call put on by SURJ, Friday June 19th at 5pm PST
With urgency, from our hearts to yours
Clare Bayard has organized in grassroots movements, led trainings and political education for over 20 years and co-founded Catalyst Project and several other organizations. Clare has worked in many coalitions, organizations and campaigns in movements including migrant rights, global justice, housing rights and anti-displacement, anti-war and Palestine solidarity, conscientious objection and G.I. resistance from within the military, climate justice, and post-Katrina Gulf Coast Reconstruction. Clare believes in the power of mentorship and necessity of supporting each other’s continued growth as community leaders for change.