Reflections on Charleston

Surreace Cox

Our hearts remain heavy for Charleston; for the families, the friends and the greater community reeling from a horrifying massacre that echoes the brutality Black people have endured for centuries in our country. To add salt to the still open wounds, in the last week, 8 predominately Black churches have burned, many instances of which are under investigation by the FBI for arson and hate crimes.  

Our hearts are heavy for Black leaders who know they cannot be certain of their safety, whether at a church, a pool or a playground, within a continuing system of White supremacy – the kind of system that produces vigilante murderers and trigger-happy police, and the kind of system that brings the Black life expectancy down in more basic ways too, through policy and practice that deny access to adequate homes, education, healthy food and water, health care and economic security.

Our hearts remain heavy because, as Reverend Barber has reflected regarding the brutal attack on the AME church, “the perpetrator has been arrested, but the killer is still at large.” We know that the killer is racism. Racism manifests in many ways, including the vigilante killer who adorns himself with “White pride” paraphernalia and takes the lives of 9 Black people in the middle of worship, the kind of political dealing that results in the rise of homelessness and foreclosures, the decimation of basic welfare rights, severe health disparities, communities fractured by the prison system, and the deep and chronic joblessness crisis in Black communities.

A human rights agenda can apprehend that killer. We must dismantle White supremacy, and transform the individuals, culture, policies and institutions that it produces. All Black lives depend on it. A human rights vision demands it.

We must organize our communities – our places of worship, neighborhood associations, schools, and families – for the human rights and dignity of all Black people. When we do that, we know we are ultimately winning rights and dignity for all of us.

Most of all, we must continue to believe another world is taking root through the powerful leadership of Black organizers, artists, healers and justice seekers and give what we can to support it.


Rest in Power:

Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59