It is an incontestable fact that many Americans lack a sense of history. To some, terrorism is an alien concept to the American way of life and the only time we have ever had a taste of terrorism was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on United States. But to Indigenous people and African-Americans, terrorism has always been their lived experience. American holocaust against Native Americans, enslavement and lynching of Black people are all institutional terrorism perpetrated against a race of people. The oldest terrorist organization, Ku Klux Klan was founded in America mainly to wreck terror on African- Americans.
Another terror attack has been carried out against black people in America by a white racist. Unfortunately, the system in this country continues to produce generational perpetrators of terroristic acts and generational victims of terror. The question is will this ever change? I am tempted to say nothing will change, but as a prisoner of hope I always believe God for the best. However, I want to separate hope from cheap optimism.
My doubt lies in the fact that America is still in a state of denial about the ancient sin of racism. America has never acknowledged the problem of institutional terrorism against non-whites orchestrated by a white supremacist system. Leveling the mountains of racism that has penetrated into every stratum of the American society is not a pipe dream in and of itself, but what makes it such a Sisyphean task is the lack of chutzpah on the part of our politicians and spiritual leaders to name our national sin – racism. If the diagnosis is wrong, it’s a no brainer that the prescription for treatment will be wrong. And the first step to rectifying any problem is to admit the existence of the problem, and the problem here is racism!
There’s a resounding denial of the institution of white supremacy in this country and this denial enjoys a bipartisan support in congress as well as a unified stentorian voice by both whites and blacks faces in positions of authority. In her reaction to the atrocious terrorist act perpetrated by a white racist the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated “Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civil society,” Unfortunately, this statement maintains and elevates the narrative of denial.
I want to give our Attorney General Loretta Lynch a benefit of a doubt. Perhaps her above statement is an aspirational one – a prognostication of the future she desires to see. However, we cannot create a more, glorious future when we continue to deny our past especially when there’s no difference between the past and the current existential realities of communities of color.
Uncomfortable truth telling is the only way the foundation for the creation of a salubrious future in America that will stand the test of time can be laid. And the truth is that acts like this horrendous shooting that left 9 wonderful black people dead are not anomalies, unfortunately they are the norm. The historic epidemic of terroristic acts against black people such as lynching, burning and bombing of churches and other black establishments runs deep in America. Indeed, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina is not new to these kinds of racist attacks. Denmark Vesey, one of the founding members of the church was killed after a failed slave revolt in 1822 and as result white supremacists burned down the church – the church was later rebuilt in 1865.
It is impossible to divorce terroristic attacks on black people and their churches from the history of America. Robert Smalls, a black congressman at the time, stated that about 53,000 black political activists have been assassinated. Fast forward to the 1960s, there were more than 300 church bombings. On the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th street Baptist Church Birmingham Alabama that killed four beautiful angels – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair.
According to the article entitled “Black Church Arson in the United States” from 1989 -1996, over 200 black and multicultural churches in United States were burned. And since the shooting of 9 innocent people at AME Church by a racist killer, there have been at least 6 black churches burned across the South.
For blacks in America, the more things change, the more they remain the same! The profound denial of the undeniable historical evidence of horrendous killing of blacks and the burning of the churches dims my hope for a better tomorrow. If Loretta Lynch, my honorable Attorney General, is genuinely concerned about seeing a truly civilized society where these kinds of atrocious killings would have no place, telling the truth remains an essential ingredient. Unfortunately truth in politics is suicidal!