06/23/2015 10:54 am ET Updated Jun 23, 2016

They Did Not Fear Him

Win McNamee via Getty Images

All I keep thinking about is how many white people I know who feel unsafe in black spaces or black neighborhoods; how many majority-black schools have metal detectors at the front when the most notorious school shootings have happened in Columbine, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut; how you can go through the Wikipedia category on mass shootings all day and not find a black man or woman on there; how many white people feel unsafe when a SINGLE black person enters their spaces or neighborhoods -- Do you know how many bogus calls police departments get from white people reporting the"suspicious behavior" of a person existing while black? Do you think Trayvon Martin would have been followed and surveilled in a black neighborhood? Do you think the black people at the McKinney pool party would have appeared threatening in a black neighborhood? -- and yet these nine people and the others who lived through that terror welcomed a white boy into their midst without question.

They did not fear him, did not stop him at the door to say "can I help you?" in that way that means "why are you here? I don't trust you." They let him come all the way up to the front and sit by the pastor. In their church. And he was there to murder them en masse.

"You rape our women," he reportedly says, then proceeds to murder mostly black women. "I have to do it," he says, motivated by fear and vicious territoriality. But white people's fear of black people is not rational. His fear was not even necessarily of black people themselves but of the threat he believed they posed to his power over them as a white male. Fear of his shrinking ability to keep them confined to their own spaces, of his dwindling supremacy. Yet history has shown that a far more rational fear is of white people -- and particularly white men -- in black neighborhoods and black spaces.

Yet they welcomed him. After everything white people have done to terrorize black people in this country, to denigrate blackness, to pose it as criminality inherent while simultaneously committing centuries' worth of physical and structural violence against black people, they welcomed him into their space. And he committed a slaughter, right there in the first state to secede from the union to salvage the threatened right of white people to own black people, a state that still flies the battle flag of the confederacy of people who fought and died for that right -- who killed for that right. And there sat this child born at the sunset of the 20th century, still killing to defend white supremacy.

And yet ordinary, everyday white people who might never pull a trigger to defend it are still doing its work daily by fearing blackness, by thinking of it interchangeably with "danger," by placing suspicious eyes on a black person in a white space never realizing he or she is in far more danger than they are.