Not Random

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On Slate, one of my favorite writers, Jamelle Bouie, persuasively makes the case that the Charleston church shooting is anything but random. Go read.

The attack on Emanuel AME sits in a long history of violence against black churches. The most famous attack—or act of terrorism—was the 1963 church bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where the Ku Klux Klan killed four girls preparing for Sunday services. Such attacks were common throughout the civil rights period, and they re-emerged in the mid-1990s, when arsonists attacked black churches in South Carolina and other states.

It also sits in the long history of American terrorism. The Klan was arguably the first terrorist group in American history, and it aimed its violence at recently freed slaves and, later, their descendants. Lynchings claimed thousands of lives and were deliberate acts of terror against black communities and their allies. Civil rights leaders and activists were routinely killed by organized defenders of Jim Crow, and the worst terrorist attack on American soil, before Sept. 11, was in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh, a young white man with links to white supremacists, killed 168 people, including 19 children.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why violent racists would single out black churches. They are major institutions for black Americans, vital sites for religious life and civic engagement. They’ve nourished activists, produced leaders, and provided a foundation for the long struggle against discrimination. They’ve been schools, training grounds, and safe havens. Even today, they’re often the nucleus for political efforts in black communities around the country, from “Souls to the Polls” in state and national elections to organizing around local issues and concerns.

Marx was right - about one thing, anyway. Over and over and over again. Sigh.

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