BLACK VOICES

7 Ways To Be A White Ally For Charleston And The Black Community

06/19/2015 06:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine black people dead on Wednesday night, has initiated conversation about race both within the black community, and outside of it. In order to make that discussion productive, there are a few things white allies should keep in mind:

1. Don't Reinforce The Mental Illness Or "Loner" Narrative.

Racism is not a mental health condition and should not be used to explain away Roof's actions as if they occurred in a vacuum. Media outlets have called Roof a loner, but that descriptor should not distract from a much-needed conversation about race.

2. Learn About The History Of The AME.

This attack is both an assault on the black community and a symbolic landmark. Emmanuel AME has roots that date back before the civil war with a congregation officially founded in 1816 by both free blacks and slaves. Its membership boasts a legacy of black leaders including pastor Morris Brown and the leader of attempted slave insurrection Denmark Vessey.

3. Reject The Notion That The Attack Was Part Of A War On Christianity.

Some have mistakenly argued that this tragedy was a strike against Christianity. However, a map of Churches in the surrounding area shows that there were several other non-predominantly black Churches where the attack could have taken place. Emmanuel AME was chosen because of its black population.

4. Dispel The Myth That More Guns Solve Problems.

The NRA released a statement condemning Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and once state senator, for voting for stricter gun laws. The organization argued that if the congregation had a gun, then the victims could have shot back at Roof, and might still be alive. Let's be clear: placing guns in spiritual sanctuaries -- that are supposed to be safe -- will not eradicate our country's race problem.

5. Remember The Names Of The Victims.

Don’t give Roof the notoriety he may have been looking for; instead, honor the lives that were lost in this tragedy: DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.

6. Understand the History Connected To Terrorism On Black Churches.

Over 100 churches have been targets of terrorist acts since the Civil Rights Era. Given the important role churches have played in black history, these hate crimes strike at the heart of the community.

7. Connect To The Black Lives Matter Movement.

Realize that this tragedy is part of a larger system that devalues black lives. Read more. Pay attention. Have compassion. Speak up.

Related on HuffPost:

  • Wade Spees / The Post And Courier / AP
    A man kneels across the street from where police gather outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church following the shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of the shooting. A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church, killing multiple people, including the pastor, in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A distraught man is comforted as a group of concerned people arrive inquiring about the shooting.
  • Matthew Fortner / The Post And Courier / AP
    Charleston police officers search for a shooting suspect outside the Emanuel AME Church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Lisa Doctor joins a prayer circle early Thursday, June 18, 2015, down the street from Emanuel following the shooting.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the scene of the attack.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray down the street from the Emanuel church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Police close off a section of Calhoun Street near the church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston Emergency Management Director Mark Wilbert on Thursday holds a flier that was distributed to media with surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with the shooting. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Surreace Cox, of North Charleston, South Carolina, holds a sign during a prayer vigil down the street from the Emanuel AME Church early Thursday. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the church. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A police officer uses a flashlight while searching the area. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • Grace Beahm / The Post and Courier / AP
    Rev. Sandy Drayton sheds a tear during a prayer vigil held at Morris Brown AME Church for the victims of Wednesday's shooting at Emanuel AME Church on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Parishioners listen during a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the nine people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A parishioner prays during a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. Police arrested 21-year-old suspect Dylann Storm Roof Thursday in Shelby, N.C. without resistance. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Natasha Wright speaks to her two daughters, Thursday, June 18, 2015 at a make-shift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people, including the pastor, at a prayer meeting inside the historic black church in downtown Charleston. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, center right, joins hands with Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, at a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People sit on the steps of Morris Brown AME Church while services are held June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    A South Carolina State Trooper walks past as people gather for a vigil while services are held at Morris Brown AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston police Lt. S. Siprko removes flowers from the backseat of a patrol car, Thursday, June 18, 2015 to a makeshift memorial in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. T
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    State Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) gets emtional as he sits next to the draped desk of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Thursday, June 18, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney was one of those killed, Wednesday night in a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A group of women pray together at a make-shift memorial on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church, Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people, including the pastor at a prayer meeting inside the historic black church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Tyler Francis, right, hugs Shondrey Dear after praying together, Thursday, June 18, 2015 at a make-shift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. Shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was captured without resistance in North Carolina Thursday after an all-night manhunt, Charleston's police chief Greg Mullen said.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Sheby Police Department in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Sheby Police Department in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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