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Seven steps forward from the Charleston shooting

By Barbara Arnwine
On July 13, 2015

Barbara Arnwine

The Charleston Nine. They were college graduates, a state senator, a librarian and all deeply committed to their church, faith and nation.

A hate-filled White supremacist stilled their mighty hearts and shocked a barely comprehending nation.

Our nation must embrace the challenge of this moment and take concrete actions to address our racial realities and prevent another racially motivated massacre.

President Obama initially called for gun control, but it’s not enough. Many wanted to hear a denunciation of the racial hate behind this heinous act. Not acknowledging the role of racism here is a fundamental error, no matter the inevitable criticism from those who will resort to denial and complain about race baiting.

Similarly, Nikki Haley wrongfully called for the imposition of the death penalty, ignoring complicity of the symbol of racial hate flying at her state capitol. Again, national and local protest forced her to call for the removal of the confederate flag from the capitol grounds.

Hate, denigrating stereotypes, fear, violence, terrorism and slaughter are the handmaidens of White supremacy. And the confederate flag is their rallying symbol.

When Dylann Roof spoke of Black men raping White women, he pulled from the racist motif of the confederacy and post-Reconstruction era. His killing of six Black women bespoke of his true genocidal purpose. When he spoke of taking back our country, he was echoing the rebel yell with flag in hand to re-subjugate Blacks, or worse.

We must stop using the language of loner, sick, mentally disabled and accept the fact that Roof is just the latest actor in a string of ugly slayings and attempted killings by White supremacist domestic terrorists against Blacks and other minorities, seeking to spark their much desired race war.

It is imperative that we eliminate or lessen any possible recurrence by taking strong action as follows:

Remove the confederate flag throughout the nation from all governmental and corporate sponsorship including schools and sport teams.

Brand the flag as a hate symbol. We have to understand that the primary purpose of the flag is a symbol of racial hatred and division.

Insist that entertainment and media stop the negative portrayals of Blacks, especially the disproportionate images of Blacks as criminals. It is easy to hate and dehumanize that which you fear.

Teach in every school, church and available forum about the evil of racism and implicit bias. It is telling that Roof is only 21 years of age. The mythology that the young will automatically with the passage of time become better on race has been disproven time and time again as young Whites have been featured nationally for various hate crimes or racist expressions. In the absence of affirmative teaching about race, Whites will learn from their popular culture and the gratuitous racism that pervades it. 

Center equality for women of color in all of our discussions about gender equality and racial justice. As the narrative of the endangered Black male has dominated the national conversation, the plight of our African-American women and girls has been ignored.

Seminal of all needed actions is the imperative to build a nationwide truth and reconciliation process that would hold hearings and programs in every state to facilitate racial healing. We must engage all races in an honest national dialogue about the history of racial oppression in their states and communities and the continuing impacts on modern society.

Build a real White movement for racial justice to fight for inclusion, equality and opportunity for all Americans. Only a truly multi-racial coalition can win the struggle to advance racial justice in our society. Whites need to be more proactive and engaged in advocating for concrete new laws and policies that will combat racial injustice. Similarly, we all must seek to enact policies and legislation that will reverse the impacts of the unjust criminal justice system, racially motivated policing and violence, segregated housing, unequal education, employment discrimination, intersectionality of race and gender, and environmental injustice.

We must propel our multiracial nation forward beyond this tragedy by taking concrete action to actualize racial harmony and racial justice.

Barbara Arnwine is founder and president of the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC) and broadcasts weekly on Radio One’s WOL 1450 AM. She can be reached at

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