Are We Disposable?: Examining Why Dylann Storm Thomas Killed Mostly Black Women

by Rebecca Carroll for The Guardian

Before opening fire – and reportedly reloading five times – the man who killed nine black people at the historic Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night, reportedly said: “You rape our women. And you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” (Dylann Roof has been arrested in North Carolina and is expected to be charged with the crime.) According to police, three of the people who died were male, including South Carolina state senator Clementa Pinkney, who served as the church pastor, and six were female.

Six black women were shot to death during a community prayer service by a young white man who allegedly declared: “You rape our women.”

These women and men welcomed a white man into their close-knit church, and likely encouraged others in their community to join and listen and pray and let God into their hearts. Black women, who are said to be the most religious demographic in America, have long been considered the backbone of black church – our backs are precious and sturdy, but have been weighted down for decades. You don’t attend Wednesday night services if you aren’t a devout churchgoer; you don’t go to Wednesday night services with a gun and the intention to murder if your true goal is to kill as many black men as possible.

There is something inconsistent with the Charleston shooter’s alleged evocation of the historical myth of black man as beast and rapist of white women, and the fact that he killed mostly black women. Did he only shoot black women because there were no more black men to kill? Because black women birth, care for and love black men? Or because he didn’t see black women as women at all, and, as something less than women (and certainly lesser than white women), felt us undeserving of the same valiance he conjured on behalf of the women he claim to be protecting?

The shooter allegedly used the salvation of white women’s bodies as a motivation for his acts, an old trope that was once used to justify the lynching of black men and the denial of rights to all black people. The idea that white women’s bodies represent that which is inviolable while black women’s are disposable hasn’t changed enough since it was first articulated by white men; but again, aimed at black men on Wednesday night, it was predominately black women who suffered by their invocation.

In recent months, activists have urged us to #SayHerName on the streets and on Twitter, to acknowledge the loss of black women’s lives to police violence and white supremacy: already, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel LanceSusie Jackson, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Myra Thompson have been named as victims of Wednesday’s massacre. That we have to urge people to say their names, to remember their names, as the shooter’s name is etched into our collective psyche, makes vividly clear what we value as unforgettable, and that which we deem disposable.

Continue reading at The Guardian.

Photo: CNN

Rebecca Carroll is a Guardian US contributing opinion writer and the director of digital media and marketing at Scenarios USA. She is the author of several nonfiction books, including Saving The Race and Sugar In The Raw. Follow her on Twitter: @rebel19

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