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Charleston shooting terrifies black America

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Nine black people at a Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were killed by a shooter

Roxanne Jones: I can't recall any other time in my life that I've felt this much hate and terror

Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events. Jones is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

The shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left six women and three men dead, including its politically active Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, shook my soul. Police report the shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, said he was at the church “to shoot black people.”

I can’t recall any other time in my life that I’ve felt this much hate and terror as a black American in my own country. And I am disgusted. Hate crime doesn’t begin to describe the church shooting. It was an act of terror – that’s how every black person (and people of other races) I know describes the massacre. We feel angry and terrorized and ashamed of our nation.

Every day, headlines tell us about incidents of hate or horrendous crimes against innocent black people and our children. America is heading to a dangerous place if we can’t deal with our race problem. We have reached a tipping point. It has to stop. All of us have to stand against this act of terror.

When I first heard about the massacre in the church, grief was not my first reaction. I am done with grief. I am angry. It’s time for us to put grief aside and think clearly about what part we can all play in the fight for racial justice. Because it is a battle that America cannot afford to lose.

Roxanne Jones
CNN
Roxanne Jones

It has always been ironic to me that America has been diligent in fighting the war against terror around the globe, losing thousands of lives in the effort and spending billions, if not trillions, of dollars over the years to hunt down foreign terrorists whom we felt were a threat to our nation or our allies. Well, America, it is past time to fight a war on racial terror within our own shores.

We have allowed it to fester for far too long, and it is ripping our nation apart. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as activities which:

– Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law.

– Appear intended (1) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (2) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (3) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

– Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

From what we’ve learned this far, Dylann Roof sounds like a domestic terrorist to me. And to call him anything short of that is to disregard the genuine terror that shapes the everyday lives of those in the black community.

Certainly, there has been no other point in my lifetime that I’ve lived in daily fear for myself, my son and my neighbors who look like me. Will everyone make it home tonight, alive? I worry. Will my son be OK at college? Will he run into some police office with bias against black men and a quick trigger finger? We no longer feel safe in our own country.

It seems that for the past few years, Black America has been grieving – for Trayvon Martin and his family, for Michael Brown, for Eric Garner, for Tamir Rice, for Walter Scott and countless others. We grieve for the lost innocence of black teenagers who went to a pool party in McKinney, Texas, for a little fun and ended up being treated as criminals by police and racist neighbors because they were in the “wrong neighborhood.”

None of us should be proud of a country that has fed its children such a huge diet of hate and bigotry for centuries that we now breed monsters like Dylann Roof. It is the kind of hate that when left unchecked can lead to rogue police officers believing they can get away with abusing and killing black citizens.

There’s no excuse for the likes of Dylann Roof. And we have to stop making excuses for wayward police officers who gun down innocent civilians or use excessive force on our black and brown children. We are creating generations of Americans who not only don’t trust law enforcement but are quickly becoming disillusioned with the “racial progress” we like to tout.

Let’s not waste time asking why this horrible crime happened, as if we don’t understand the history of systematic racism and hate that America is built on and still thrives on today.

Hate, and only hate, fueled Roof when he pulled the trigger in that Bible study class. I don’t want to hear that it’s about gun control, or bad parenting, or drug use, or even a war on Christians as some pundits have already begun to claim. Those may be legitimate conversations to have, but none explain why Roof was in that church to “kill black people.”

Race in America has reached a tipping point.

None of us will like the America we end up with if we don’t all work harder at every level of government and in our own personal lives to eradicate the sickness of hate. We have much work to do, and the stakes are high.

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