The Charleston killings: indictment of a racist system

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The following was written just after the murders at Mother Emanual Church on June 17, and before the subsequent series of Black church burnings in June and early July.


The Freedom Socialist Party joins millions of Americans in expressing our condolences to the families, friends and congregation of the nine killed in Charleston, South Carolina by white supremacist Dylann Roof. We join with the #BlackLivesMatter and #StandWithCharleston movements in calling for widespread actions to protest these deaths and the forces behind the carnage.

Mother Emanuel Church: a symbol of Black resistance. Amidst the gunfire at the Charleston church, a young Black girl lay still, playing dead to avoid the carnage. But she couldn’t avoid the racist rants of the white gunman: “You are raping our women and taking over the country.”

The 22-year-old shooter with the strange bowl haircut was merely recycling the ancient arguments of the Klan and Nazis whose ideology he clearly shares in word and deed. Roof was aiming to stop growing protests against racist killer cops who continue to shoot and injure with impunity across the U.S. His words were aimed at inflaming a race war in this country.

They were also meant to destroy all that Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church represents in the struggle against racism and forced servitude. The church was built by Denmark Vesey, a former slave who in 1822 planned the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He was caught and hung before the rebellion could take place, and the church was burned by a white mob. The history of this revolt was suppressed by wealthy slave owners who ran the nearby slave market. But Vesey’s son rebuilt the church and it became a stop on the Underground Railroad. In the 1960s, it became a center of organizing for civil and labor rights.

This church is not the first Black church to be targeted. Between 1995 and 1996, over 30 southern churches were burned by racists. Clearly the forces of white supremacy are on the march once more. Their targets are people of color, immigrants, Jews, unionists, women and queers. A united self-defense movement is in order.

The past is not dead, it is not even past. The bullets fired by Roof shattered the myth once again that we are living in a post-racial society. The Klan and Nazis breed in conditions of economic distress. They offer scapegoats to the deprived and deranged. They are the product of capitalism which must divide to conquer so that the 1% can fly high while the rest of us struggle to survive.

While President Obama decries racist attacks and police violence, the only solution he offers is gun control, blaming Congress for its inaction around this issue. But the police have guns and they are killing Blacks and poor people! Is the solution really disarming the victims of racist violence? Gun control laws do not address the inequity, discrimination, high incarceration and unemployment rates for people of color, segregation in housing, poor schools, etc. that are the source of so much despair and hopelessness in society. And it is the people on the bottom against whom gun control laws are used. In Florida, “stand your ground” laws protect paranoid racists, while Marissa Alexander, a Black mother, spent years in jail for firing into the ceiling to stop her abusive husband.

Meanwhile, the Confederate flag flies high outside South Carolina’s capitol. Clearly the problems of race in this country are much deeper than a few public pronouncements to the effect that “something, anything must be done” while it is business as usual with cops killing people of color (and the mentally ill) on a regular basis.

The future will never be secure until we deal with the crimes of the past and the present. This country was built on the blood of slaves, Native Americans, and immigrants. The violence at Mother Emanuel Church is as old as the country itself and the economic system of capitalism it was founded on.

The Freedom Socialist Party fights for a new kind of society, a socialist society where all share in the abundance working people’s labor creates, where white skin privilege, sexism, homophobia, inequality, environmental destruction and wars are things of the past. We invite you to join this struggle! There is much to be done!

— June 19, 2015

This article in Spanish / Este artículo en español

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