Rebuke and praise after Charleston, South Carolina, church tragedy

by Allen Jones

As I processed the tragic shooting that occurred in a South Carolina church, I admit one of my earliest thoughts was, be careful what you wish for. I’d been wishing the constant news reports of Rachel Dolezal would come to an end.

News that Dylann Storm Roof, 21, walking into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sitting with parishioners for an hour before murdering nine members of that historic Black church has me wishing instead for news of the debate and jokes about a White woman claiming to be Black.

Though removed a few years ago from the flagpole on the capitol dome in Columbia, South Carolina, after a deal was cut with the NAACP, the Confederate battle flag still flies nearby on the grounds.
Though removed a few years ago from the flagpole on the capitol dome in Columbia, South Carolina, after a deal was cut with the NAACP, the Confederate battle flag still flies nearby on the grounds.

Early reports revealed that Dylann Roof, a high school dropout, had a seldom used Facebook page and many Black friends. Then the Facebook photo of Roof sitting on his car with a Confederate flag license plate was revealed and another of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of Apartheid South Africa and White-run Rhodesia, indicating that Roof was capable of tragically putting into practice what had been preached to him.

The NAACP has had a boycott of the state of South Carolina in place for some time over the Confederate flag. However, to hold a press conference from Charleston to restate that the flag must come down is stepping beyond the boycott.

On June 18, Associated Press reported the first comments from NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks on the tragedy: “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people.” This is worthless rhetoric, coming from a still respected but once great civil rights champion organization.

In 2014, it was reported that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said that voters should not be concerned that the statehouse flies the Confederate battle flag because she has heard no complaints from CEOs. Gov. Haley, seeing no problem with a flag that has been a symbol of hate towards Blacks for over 150 years, was simply pandering to racists who apparently outnumber all other voters in South Carolina.

The NAACP has had a boycott of the state of South Carolina in place for some time over the Confederate flag.

On June 19, Gov. Nikki Haley boldly proclaimed before Roof was given a lawyer, “We will absolutely want him to have the death penalty.” Gov. Nikki Haley, do the math: 9 plus 1 equals revenge, not justice. Throwing a 21-year-old White murderer under the bus, in an attempt to protect the flag that so many racists hold near and dear is a more appropriate time to use the word coward.

We have all been admonished to “practice what we preach.” But the governor of South Carolina should be rebuked as a leader for preaching what a 21-year-old put into practice – then bowing only after being pressured by announcing on June 22 that the flag must come down.

Though I’m tempted to call the governor’s latest move a hollow victory, it is still a small victory that should give momentum towards reaching a new generation of confused Whites who hold on to their racist indoctrination.

Privileged to minister to teenage felons, I had a young Black man come up to me and point out that a “skinhead” was brought on to the “maximum security unit,” where I ministered in San Francisco many years ago. A very short time later, I saw that same Black youth playing checkers with the so-called skinhead.

How long would it take someone to change the heart of a racist if he went around waving a Confederate flag, calling young people “cowards” and demanding the death penalty for someone who just got arrested for a heinous crime?

The governor of South Carolina should be rebuked as a leader for preaching what a 21-year-old put into practice – then bowing only after being pressured by announcing on June 22 that the flag must come down.

I cannot speak for the nine people of God who lost their lives at the hand of a confused young man, but I can imagine all nine victims turning their Bibles to the scripture, Romans 12:21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Then I can hear all nine saying, “Amen” as they too heard family members, through tears, put into practice what they preached by extending forgiveness to Dylann Roof, as he listened during his June 19 bond hearing.

The chaplain, called upon by God to minister to Dylann Roof and so many others where he is being held, could benefit from less rhetoric and hatred from so-called leaders. It is the only chance society has at repairing what brainwashing has already damaged.

However, San Francisco is dealing with its own stench of racism, perpetrated by City Hall. This has resulted in the Black out-migration that has sharply intensified in recent years.

And if we remaining Blacks are only going to point the finger at a 21-year-old White boy or the symbol of hatred that gave him his marching orders – and are not willing to call out SF City Hall and city halls around the country for their racist sins – we are no better than that “red rag” some call a flag.

San Francisco writer Allen Jones, author of “Case Game: Activating the Activist,” can be reached at (415) 756-7733 or jones-allen@att.net. Visit his website, at http://casegame.squarespace.com, and his blog, at http://sf49erfanrevolt.squarespace.com.