Too much of the framing of the Charleston shooting and the role the Confederate flag is that the incident was an aberration and that the flag is a relic. When in fact the institutional racism in the USA is a long story and one without a break.
Many of the media reports about last week’s massacre in a Charleston, South Carolina church framed the story as “tragedy visits a church.” As Jon Stewart said, this massacre that was racially motivated by the shooter’s own admission, was not a tornado. And for Black churches in the USA, tragedy is a resident not a visitor. And as the President said over the weekend, racism is not extinct in the USA simply because people hold their tongue.
The Academy Award winning movie Selma opens with a depiction of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. When this bombing happened — over 50 years ago — Susie Jackson was 35 years old. At 87, Ms. Jackson was the oldest woman murdered last week by Dylann Roof at the Emanuel AME Church. She was born during the Jim Crow days and likely knew relatives who had been enslaved. She lived through the Civil Rights era, saw the end of Jim Crow and even the inauguration of the first Black president. She was old enough in 1963 that she could had been the mother of one of the four girls killed in that Birmingham bombing.
And she was gunned down by a white supremacist in her own church.
These are the moments when it pays to be a hobby historian.
Too much of the framing of the Charleston shooting and the role the Confederate flag is that the incident was an aberration and that the flag is a relic. When in fact the institutional racism in the USA is a long story and one without a break. It doesn’t take much effort to search the history of racism in America. We — along with the sometimes lazy 24/7 news media — owe it to everyone to keep these facts at the forefront in order to change the mindset about race from one of isolated incidents to an acknowledgment that the undercurrent of racially motivated hate still exists. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took a good step toward that end by calling for the Confederate Battle flag to be taken down at the State Capitol.
When someone is trying to avoid talking about race in the US, they often brush off racism as something you pick up at an antique store instead of the front page of every newspaper in the country, call them out. Susie Jackson’s life touched almost every point of the history of racism in the USA and that means so can we. We owe that to her, as well as all the others whose lives have been taken because of racial hatred.
Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye. To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.