Charleston Shooting Sparks Hashtag #WeWillShootBack

The Charleston shooting at historic Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina has sparked calls for unity and the taking down of the Confederate flag; now it has sparked a call to African Americans to bear arms via the trending hashtag #WeWillShootBack in the wake of what some call an increase in violence against the African American community.

Writer and activist Taurean “Sankofa” Brown is credited with promoting the trending hashtag following the Charleston shooting, citing a loss of confidence in the police. The recent spate of police killings of unarmed black men including Walter Scott, whose shooter, former police officer Michael Slager, has become detention-mates with Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, has made Brown feel like calling the police when trouble strikes is no longer an option.

Brown lives in neighboring North Carolina where Dylann Roof was arrested; Roof, who was later transported back to Charleston, allegedly chose Charleston because it was the “most historic city” in South Carolina. In a recent interview with Mashable, Brown made it clear that he was not advocating for the wanton killing of white citizens.

“I want the narrative to say that we have the right to defend ourselves…”

The #WeWillShootBack hashtag, inspired by Georgia State University professor Akinyele Umoja’s book by the same name, has a large following of social media supporters in and out of Charleston who have taken to Twitter to express solidarity with the families of those who died in Charleston. The hashtag has also invoked memories of political activist and co-founder of the Black Panther Party Huey Newton who, like Brown, felt the need to defend himself against police violence against his community.

The hashtag lends itself to the frustration mourners feel following the Charleston shooting at Emanuel AME. The church, still reeling from the loss of its pastor and eight members, was opened for services this past Sunday.

Both the shootings in Charleston and the #WeWillShootBack hashtag beg the question, “should the use of armed guards be employed outside of churches?” Even cause for greater concern is the idea that parishioners should attend religious services armed.

#WeWillShootBack maintains the position of gun advocates who call for more gun ownership, not less, among American citizens. Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt issued a statement to Al Jazeera opposing additional gun control measures and suggests current policies are part of the problem.

“…that just deflects blame away from the real culprit — gun control policies that leave people defenseless in the face of evil perpetrators who are never effectively prevented from acquiring weapons.”

#WeWillShootBack has larger implications that go beyond gun control. Heeding the call may be interpreted as a step towards Dylann Roof’s initial goal of starting a race war, which runs counter to the message of love preached by Emanuel AME pastor and Charleston shooting victim, Clementa Pinckney.

“Together we come to bury racism, to bury bigotry, and to resurrect and revive love, compassion and tenderness.”

[Photo credit: Washington State Archives]

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