June 18, 2015
A Statement Concerning the Massacre at the Emanuel AME Church
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) speaks out against the violence in Charleston,South Carolina, that took the lives of nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME Church. We extend our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, the members of the Emanuel AME Church, and the entire Charleston community. May your faith sustain you through this storm.
As all Americans now know, this African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a rock in our community since the early days of this republic when the members of the congregation, enslaved and free, could not be citizens of either the state or this nation. The church itself was implicated in the Denmark Vesey plot to throw off the chains of slavery, and it has been a site for our struggle for racial justice and equality across the centuries. The congregation represents how slavery itself could not and cannot extinguish the human thirst for freedom and true citizenship.
This massacre strikes at the heart of our democracy. According to the witness Sylvia Johnson, a member of the church, the shooter told his victims, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country - and you have to go." As an expression of white nationalism, this slaughter of American citizens-for being citizens-is thus even more than a hate crime. The accused, Dylann Roof, assaulted our common democratic institutions and engaged in domestic terrorism. His purpose could have been none other than to foment greater racial strife, if not race war. We cannot let it stand.
We call on our elected officials at every level of government to denounce white supremacy as an ideology and to root out this form of terrorism. Our nation offers itself to the world as a beacon of racial progress, the hope of a true multi-racial society and we must uphold by this self-appointed mission. Moreover, the state of South Carolina--where the citizens can elect Nikki Haley, a South Asian woman, and Tim Scott, an African American man, as their Governor and United States Senator, respectively-- cannot allow white nationalism to undermine our efforts to build and maintain a common democracy.
Daryl Michael Scott