Today as we mourn the loss of 49 lives in the Orlando massacre, we remember as well the 9 Black parishioners who were killed a year ago this day in Charleston, South Carolina. On June 17 2015, Dylan Roof, a young white man, entered a space meant for healing and prayer with the intent to kill. One year later, this visceral hatred and disregard for safe spaces for marginalized groups still prevails. The recent shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando during Latinx night, where nearly all the victims were queer people of color, is a perfect example of the continuing threat of homegrown terrorism.
In the case of Dylan Roof, his justification left no doubt about his views that Black people were a threat to whiteness - especially to white women, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Playing on stereotypes which date back to the 19th Century, these words constituted Roof’s response to a plea from one of the victims to spare their lives. As both massacres exemplify, racial violence is a threat to both men as well as women of color.
We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Black rhetoric, homophobia, sexism and all forms of oppression are sentiments that are historically and institutionally embedded in the United States. It is imperative to understand that while such violence becomes increasingly visceral, the countless individuals and communities who have suffered from such violence have faced further marginalization and silence.
We refuse to forget the tragedy that unfolded in Mother Emanual last year, and we remain committed to fighting for visibility and justice for the Charleston 9 as well as the countless others whose lives were stolen by racialized violence. These massacres serve as solemn reminders that the US is not safe for people of color - not even presumptive safe havens such as Emanuel Church and Latinx night at Pulse.
The victims of the Charleston and Orlando shootings must be centered in our nation's discourse around domestic terror. As feminists, we reaffirm our commitment to the intersectional struggles against racism, patriarchy and homophobia. When we talk about this violence, we must recognize the ways in which queer people and people of color have been the targets of these attacks in spaces meant for healing, connection and affirmation. We cannot let the media deflect or distort the fact that domestic terrorism a profound threat to American lives. Continuing to stay silent about this reality is no longer acceptable.