Taurean Brown doesn’t think that the authorities are doing a good enough job at protecting black people, following last Wednesday’s church shooting in which Dylann Roof slayed nine black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston.
He is calling on black people to take up arms, in order to protect themselves, as the #WeWillShootBack hashtag goes viral with over 25,000 tweets.
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“We’re often the first ones that are called upon to be nonviolent,” Brown, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, told Mashable. “I want to change the narrative to say that we have the right to defend ourselves, just like every human being.”
If my mother isn’t safe at church, I’ll will make that church safe myself. #WeWillShootBack
— #WeWillShootBack (@SankofaBrown) June 18, 2015
#WeWillShootBack has racked up more than 25,000 tweets since Wednesday’s murders, but it’s not the first time that phrase has been used.
We Will Shoot Back is the title of a recently published book by Akinyele Umoja, who heads Georgia State University’s department of African-American studies.
In it, Umoja chronicles the the armed resistance of black Mississippians in their struggle for freedom against intimidation and violence from their white counterparts. But Brown said he isn’t advocating for the random shooting of white people.
“What I’m saying is we have a right to organize ourselves, and defend our humanity,” he explained. “We’re taking the power into our own hands, and not allowing another entity go do that for us.”
Let me see a grown white man chasing Black children with a gun shouting racial slurs. It will be his last day on Earth.
— #WeWillShootBack (@SankofaBrown) June 19, 2015
Brown is in favor of black people owning legal weapons, and posting trained armed guards at places such as Emanuel AME Church, which has historically been attacked by racists.
In the days following Wednesday’s murders, response to #WeWillShootBack among those congregating around the church was mixed.
Wendell Green, a lifelong Charleston resident, told Mashable that posting armed guards at historically black churches made sense to him, even though it would be giving in to fear.
“The way society is now — I guess depending on the location — people would consider that, knowing the history,” Green said. “The church, it’s been burned to the ground.”
— Colin Daileda (@ColinDaileda) June 18, 2015
Sina and Shawn Howell were silent for a moment, as they considered whether armed guards should be at black churches. The married couple, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, disagreed with each other.
“You going to put an armed guard at every black church across America?” Shawn asked. “I don’t think that will control ignorance.”
But Sina seemed less concerned about ignorance than she did with her own safety and that of black communities. Sina started getting emotional at the thought, then said she’s fine with anything that will make her feel safe.
“If we can do something to protect ourselves, then absolutely.”