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Millions of Whites Feel Charleston Church Killer ‘Could Be My Son’

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Whitaker

By Matthew C. Whitaker
NNPA Guest Columnist

On Wednesday, June 17, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old White supremacist, massacred nine Black worshipers in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Among those slain at close range with a .45 caliber semi-automatic weapon, were an 87-year-old woman and Emanuel’s pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator. This atrocity was not only a premeditated stab at the heart of Black America, and one of the moral epicenters of the African Diaspora, it was the latest in a long history of calculated and explicit acts of racial terrorism perpetrated against African Americans.

This was neither random or without context. Yet, one week after the attack, I continue to hear many observers describe their “shock” and “surprise.” Even a casual reader of American history, and an occasional news listener, would know that there has never been a cessation of racist beliefs and racial conflict in America. White supremacists have never waived the white flag. The Confederate flag is their banner de jour. Indeed, racial tensions have only worsened of late. Almost daily we are bombarded with news of unarmed Black people being shot while talking, walking, running, working, playing, and now praying while Black. Indeed, The Southern Poverty Law Center reveals that there has been a “30% increase in hate crimes since 2000.”

It reported that the number of so-called Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012. The number fell to 874 in 2014, which is nearly six times higher than when Obama took office.

When I rejected a White male acquaintance’s attempt to describe Roof as a “misguided kid,” he angrily declared, “Roof could be my son.” As the “Oracle would say, “Bingo.” He, and millions more like him, identify with Roof. They grant the baby faced, salad bowl haircut wearing White supremacist the kind of absolution that many people of color can only imagine receiving were, Heaven forbid, the tables turned. They empathize with Roof. They do not see him first as the latest in a long line of racist mass murders – the most recent, hateful, violent personification of our grossly unequal and unjust system, which is characterized and fueled by White dominance and disavowal of White supremacy. They see him not as the harbinger of violent bigotry, but an unwitting victim. Yes, as their son.

Perhaps this is why, as historian and public intellectual Brian Behnken recently observed, “Trayvon Martin buys skittles and an ice tea and ends up murdered.  Dylan Roof murders nine Black folks and gets treated to Burger King.” Apparently murderous White supremacists can also “have it their way.”

We must look courageously at the nature of White supremacy in America and the ways in which it defends itself at all costs. To my White brothers and sisters who have taken up the struggle and descended upon Charleston, signed petitions, written letters, donated to the cause, and otherwise acted in the aftermath of Roof’s carnage, thank you for you support.  Don’t stop.  People of color need relief and you’re next up at bat. If true change is to be made, we will need all hands on deck, especially yours.

The absence of racism is not the presence of anti-racism. We need more than good intentions. We need Whites to, as Mahatma Gandhi urged, to “be the change you wish to see.” Racism will not go away until we eradicate it, and you must be as invested in its demise as people of color for this to happen. In the words of civil rights warrior Fred Shuttlesworth, rattlesnakes don’t commit suicide; ball players don’t put themselves out. You gotta put ’em out.”

To people of color, wake up and keep your heads on a swivel. The American promise is virtuous and our advancements are real, but our trek in the wilderness continues and in the words of Robert Frost, we have “miles to go before we sleep.” There is no shelter or sanctuary for Black people in America.

Black people, we will not surrender and we will not back down. Others will either venture down the “rabbit hole,” unplug, and stand side-by-side with us in struggle, or we will compel them to, beginning with relegating the Confederate flag, the symbol of White supremacy and hatred that Roof so proudly waved, to museums where it belongs.

Matthew C. Whitaker is ASU Foundation professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University. He is also the owner and CEO of The Whitaker Group, L.L.C., an equity and inclusion, cultural competency, and human relations consulting firm. He can be followed on Twitter at @DrWhitaker.

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Activism

In Dr. King’s Honor, California Black Health Leaders Call for Urgent Action During COVID-19 Crisis

Right now, an estimated 1.1 million Californians don’t have health insurance and are eligible for more financial health than ever before through Covered California, or they qualify for low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal. Most Californians can now qualify to get brand-name health plans with companies like Anthem, Blue Shield, Kaiser, and Health Net for less than $10 monthly and many for $0 per month.

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Working tirelessly on the ground to enroll Black Californians and other people of color in affordable and quality health care is the mission of the California Black Health Network (CBHN).
Working tirelessly on the ground to enroll Black Californians and other people of color in affordable and quality health care is the mission of the California Black Health Network (CBHN).

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

African American health leaders joined Covered California to reflect on the life and legacy of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and with the final deadline in the current open enrollment period coming up, to urge Black Californians to sign up for comprehensive coverage through Covered California or Medi-Cal.

Doctors David Carlisle and Kim Rhoads, along with Rhonda Smith of the California Black Health Network, say Dr. King’s words on the injustice in healthcare are still profound today. Health inequities abound for Black Californians.

A recent report from the California Health Care Foundation highlighted that Black Californians have the shortest life expectancy – as well as the highest death rates among all racial and ethnic groups from breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. According to the report, Black Californians also experienced the highest rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality, first-birth cesareans, preterm births, and low-birthweight births.

Carlisle, Rhoads, and Smith joined Covered California to encourage Black Californians to get COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters and to sign up for affordable, quality health insurance coverage before open enrollment closes at the end of the month. The health leaders stressed that having access to quality health care is a means to help ensure health equity for Blacks Californians.

“Achieving health equity for African Americans is an important goal now more than ever,” said Carlisle, CEO and president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.  “It is essential that all populations have access to healthcare and the tools needed to face down this historic public health crisis. The only way to get through this is together. Widely available and affordable health coverage coupled with quality health care can help level the field for everyone, putting California in the best position to get on top of COVID-19 and be prepared for future challenges.”

The latest state data shows that COVID-19 vaccination rates among African Americans currently at 52 percent. Increasing COVID-19 vaccination and booster rates and gaining access to quality health care is key to battling health care inequities, says Rhoads, associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and the director of the Office of Community Engagement at UC San Francisco.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the curtain back on the longstanding inequities in the health and health care for Black and African American people nationwide,” said Rhoads. “These disparities whether in high blood pressure, cancer, or COVID-19, are often related to challenges in finding and receiving high quality care. Getting and having insurance coverage is a powerful intervention that will help us address the negative effects of unequal access to prevention and treatment for Black and African American people in California.”

Right now, an estimated 1.1 million Californians don’t have health insurance and are eligible for more financial health than ever before through Covered California, or they qualify for low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal. Most Californians can now qualify to get brand-name health plans with companies like Anthem, Blue Shield, Kaiser, and Health Net for less than $10 monthly and many for $0 per month.

Working tirelessly on the ground to enroll Black Californians and other people of color in affordable and quality health care is the mission of the California Black Health Network (CBHN), says Executive Director Rhonda Smith. As a statewide Navigator for Covered California, CBHN has enrolled thousands of Black Californians into health plans through the years.

“We are proud to partner with Covered California to ensure that healthcare coverage is available, affordable, and accessible to all,” Smith said. “We believe that healthcare is a right and not a privilege, and thanks to Covered California, we can provide a pathway to get more people insured and enroll them in the right plan that works for them.”

Covered California’s current open-enrollment period runs through January 31. Enrollment in Medi-Cal is open year-round. Consumers interested in learning more about their health coverage options can:

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Activism

COMMENTARY: After Jan. 6, An MLK Day Deadline for Voting Rights and Democracy

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

We all know the images of Jan. 6, 2021. Lawless rioters ransacking the Capitol. Police being tortured and beaten. Members of Congress hiding in fear in the House gallery. The gallows and a noose meant for former Vice President Mike Pence.

We all saw the video images one year after and astonishingly they did nothing to pull our nation together.

Nothing.

They simply confirmed the only thing everyone can agree on.

Our democracy’s in trouble. Real trouble.

We already sensed that after the Civil Rights battles of the 1960s such things as race, policing, and income inequality are still major issues in 2022.

But we’ve got trouble in a different key.

C Major. No sharps or flats. This trouble goes right to the core of our democracy. They’re coming after your vote.

That is, after all, what the Jan. 6 rioters were attempting when they tried to stop the certification of the election.

But now the GOP politicians who may have been behind the Jan. 6 rioters all along, are going legit.

The majority of Republicans, notably California’s Kevin McCarthy, continue to sing the fictional tune “The 2016 Election Was Stolen.”

As if in a song battle, the Democrats counter with the loud truth, “The Election Was Fair. Trump Lost.”

But enough people keep singing the lie as if it’s their battle hymn.

And now they are looking for the ultimate control of any election. Legally. In plain view.

Republicans are taking over or running for top election official posts in key states. State legislatures are proposing laws to limit absentee ballots, mail-in voting and other conveniences. They are putting up obstacles to make voting harder with the hopes of suppressing your vote.

This is why Biden spoke in Georgia this week, saying “I will not yield, I will not flinch in protecting voting rights.”

Let’s hope he’s serious, starting with new voting rights legislation to make election days federal holidays and require federal approval of any state and local election changes.

It may take changing the filibuster law to make sure Republicans can’t block any Democratic reforms, but it must be done. And done now.

That’s why even the family of Martin Luther King Jr. is calling for “no celebration” of MLK Day without the passage of voting rights legislation.

This is how Democrats are talking to Biden.

The Republicans’ post-Jan.6 strategy is simply Orwellian. Where truth and lies are indistinguishable. And Republicans loyal to Trump are dead set on forcing their lies on everyone.

Witness Sen. Ted Cruz last week caught in a moment of truth calling the Jan. 6 rioters “domestic terrorists.” But how quickly he recanted when called on the carpet by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the Trump Confessor, for all the Republican congregants to see.

Like a loyal Trumper, Cruz knelt, confessed, and did his penance.

It used to be called hypocrisy. Now it’s just called Modern Day Republicanism.

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

That’s even worse than the Jan. 6 rioters’ wildest dreams.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Schools and streets have been named after Martin Luther King Jr. 

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

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Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)
Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)

By Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. | Baptist News Global

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Churches and libraries are named after him. He is the only African American and the only American clergy honored with a national holiday. In many countries around the world, he is numbered with global heroes like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Some discredited him by calling him a communist, a detractor and troublemaker. Sophisticated ideological historians are deconstructing his history in order to distort the powerful truth of his ministry. Those who pass laws against teaching Critical Race Theory are making sure that present and coming generations will not learn as Professor Cornel West said, that King’s universal religious commitments led him to internationalize the American ideals of democracy, freedom and equality.

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

“There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached non-violence and love.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance

Forgive us, Lord, for reducing Martin Luther King to being only a civil rights leader. Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance. All many people know about him is that he had a dream. He was more than a dreamer. Forgive us for ignoring your calling of Martin Luther King as a minister with good news for a bad news world.

In keeping with Luke 4:18-19, King — like Jesus — had a deep commitment to the poor, pushed down, left out, disrespected Black sanitation workers of Memphis. He addressed, to the displeasure of the white power structure, the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Black population — equitable education, decent housing, jobs that paid living wages, and equal justice in the courts. The sanitation workers had lost their lives working long hours for dirt-poor pay with unsafe trucks that had taken the lives of several workers.

The workers had a strike with the support of many in the community. They carried signs that said, “I AM A MAN!” Some critics of King did not understand his identification with the cause of sanitation workers.

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

Professor Luther D. Ivory states in Toward a Theology of Radical Involvement that King used the teaching of Imago Dei to counter the notion of Black inferiority. Everyone irrespective of race, gender, education or economic status is to be valued and treated with respect and dignity. Blacks needed this message to overcome feelings of shame, inferiority and self-hatred caused by the absurdities of racism.

With this understanding, the foundation is built for Blacks and whites to live together in the beloved community. Living in the beloved community calls for Blacks and whites to work together to transform existing injustices in institutions and public life.

Forgive us, Lord, for our distorted gospel

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Lord, forgive American Christians — Black and white — for their middle-class captivity with a distorted view of the gospel. This understanding of the gospel was concerned about life after death and not life after birth, addressing only the sweet by and by while ignoring the nasty now and now. This gospel condemns the personal sins of the individuals while ignoring corporate and institutional evils. This gospel refused to oppose chemical and nuclear waste dumps that are built on the edge of communities where the poor and politically powerless live.

In his book Stride Toward Freedom, King corrects the distorted view of the gospel saying: “The gospel deals with the whole man, not only his soul, but his body; not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. … Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the conditions that scar the soul is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our white nationalism

Forgive America, Lord, for her ethnocentrism and white nationalism that justifies her behavior whether it is right or wrong. American arrogance has been promoted by persons who have held the highest leadership positions in the nation. America has promoted herself as being No. 1 among the wealthy nations of the world.

In “A Lament for Humanity” on Humans Rights Day 2021, pastor, author and judge Wendell Griffen wrote, “The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. Nearly half the world’s population of 3.4 billion people lives on less than $5.50 per day. Every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they must pay out-of-pocket for health care. Currently 258 million children (one out of five) will not be allowed to attend school.”

Pastor Griffen adds: “And it came to pass that humanity appears to have cursed itself and the world by that greed, lust for power, inequality and bigotry that make community seem like a global fantasy instead of a human imperative.”

The inequality is not accidental; it is deliberative, calculated and purposeful.

Forgive us, Lord, for we were warned by King in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here? He wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to learn to live together, Black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu. A family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never live apart, must somehow learn to live with each other in peace.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our violence

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Forgive us, Lord, for our worship of guns. There are more guns in America than people. Our money says “In God We Trust” but there are 121 firearms for every 100 residents. And 75% of homicides are related to guns. America leads all other nations in gun deaths. Our children have fears of being killed in school by a student. Black Christians in churches and Jews in synagogues have been killed while worshipping. Our shopping centers have had mass killings.

On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was invaded by persons with guns attempting to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes. The reports say the lives of the vice president and the Speaker of the House were marked for death.

Guns are used to settle differences. The United States is the No. 1 seller of arms to the countries of the world. Forgive us, Lord, for giving deaf ears to the apostle of nonviolence. He preached against what he called the triplets of evil: war, poverty and racism. It was he who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

A prayer for hope

May those of us who have become discouraged because racism seems to be on the increase find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because white supremacy and white nationalism are boldly obtaining a stronger foothold in state and national governments find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because voting rights for which people shed their blood so we could vote are now being stolen, placing democracy in jeopardy find hope.

Forgive us, Lord, if we forget how Martin Luther King told us in his very last speech that we would face difficult days. Those days are here.

Two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he spoke powerful words of hope. We must not forget them. He said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Yes, the immediate future may not look promising. Negative news about climate change may haunt us. Young college graduates are uncertain about career opportunities. The COVID-19 virus and its mutations trouble us. These finite disappointments multiply geometrically, but we must not lose infinite hope.

I am not speaking of blind hope but an infinite hope that presses forward believing that if we do our part, our way-maker God, who brought us through the Middle Passage, the horror of runaway slaves chased by bloodhounds and beaten with many stripes if caught, the sexual abuse of the slave woman bearing a mulatto child for the slave owner, and the way-maker God of liberation who helped us survive the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and inspired our preachers to preach on after their churches were burned and to rebuild them back bigger — that this God will inspire us and create in us the power to keep the dream alive.

Not the God of the slave master’s preacher who told us not to steal the master’s chickens when our babies were crying from hunger, but the God of infinite hope, the God who creates ex nihilo, who makes a way out of no way. The way-maker God inspires us and creates in us the power to keep the dream of Martin Luther King alive.

Dante Stewart reminds us how Pastor James Bevel spoke about infinite hope: “There is a false rumor around our leader’s death. Martin Luther King is not our leader. Our leader is the man who led Moses out of Egypt. Our leader is the one who went with Daniel in the lion’s den. Our leader is the man who walked out of the grave on Easter morning. Our leader never sleeps nor slumbers. He cannot be put in jail. Our leader is still on the case. Our leader is not dead. One of the prophets died. We will not stop because of that.”

Alfred Smith served four decades as pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. Now pastor emeritus, he is a member of the American Baptist Churches in the USA and dually aligned with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, where he served as the organization’s 12th president.

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