The first African American US President / Overt racism rises again | Who Are You? What is Your Faith?

The First African American US President

One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world (Barack Hussein Obama).

In November 2008, an African American civil rights lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, community organizer, and senator representing the state of Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected as the 44thPresident of the US. He became the first and only Black American to date in the history of the nation to hold the highest political office. He was also the first president to have been born outside the contiguous US.

During the tenure of Obama as president, more legislative measures were introduced to combat overt and covert racism in the country. But America, given its racial legacy both as a nation and as a people, could not handle a non-White male in the White House as president. Covert and not-so-covert racism increased, and this became manifest even in relation to the President himself.

Death threats and racist chatter on the websites of many White supremacists, directed toward the person of the President, increased to such an unprecedented degree that even while Obama was still a candidate, a bipartisan congressional advisory committee decided to assign Secret Service protection to him a full 18 months before the 2008 general elections (Parks & Heard, 2009; Pickler, 2007; Toomey, 2007; Zeleny, 2007). Some threats also targeted his Black American nuclear family.

“Assassinate the Nigger Ape!”[1][2]

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races — I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people (Abraham Lincoln).

For example, Raymond Hunter Geisel was arrested in August 2008 for threatening to assassinate Obama (Parks & Heard, 2009). Geisel had been overheard using a racial epithet in his regard during a training class for bail bondsmen. He added, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself” (ibid.). Also in August, another three men who seemed to adhere to the ideology of White supremacy were arrested after having disclosed that they planned to shoot Obama during the acceptance speech he was to give as his party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention (McKinney et al., 2008). In October, federal officials arrested yet another two White supremacists who intended to assassinate Obama (Lichtblau, 2008). These individuals had also planned to go on a killing rampage against a school in Tennessee that was majority-Black in its population, with the intent of beheading 88 African American children.

The day after the general elections in November, many citizens in Maine[3] rallied against “a backdrop of Black figures hung by nooses from trees” (Parks & Heard, 2009). In the meantime, a betting pool progressed in one of their convenience stores as to when President Obama would be assassinated. A sign at the store read: “Let’s hope we have a winner” (ibid.). In Hardwick, New Jersey, an unknown individual burned crosses in front of the house of a biracial couple, while the phrases “Kill that nigger” and “Shoot Obama” (ibid.) were found spray painted in the free expression tunnel of North Carolina State University. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a poster of President Obama with a bullet going through his head appeared in a police station. At the University of Texas in Austin, the footballer Buck Burnette posted the following sentence on his Facebook page: “All the hunters gather up, we have a nigger in the White House” (ibid.). Second- and third-graders in a public school in Rexburg, Idaho, were heard chanting “Assassinate Obama” (ibid.), while in Vay, also in Idaho, a sign offering a “free public hanging” (ibid.) of the President appeared on a tree.

The negative intersection of minority race and religion took a rather insidious turn during both the candidacy and the presidency of Obama. This intersection had made its first appearance as a narrative in the aftermath of 9/11, subsequent to the Middle Eastern nationalities of, and adherence to the Muslim faith by, the terrorist members of Al-Qaeda.

For example, in 2008, an accountant from Charlotte, North Carolina, Jeremy Blanchard, was indicted after he declared that “Obama and his wife are never going to make it to the White House. He needs to be taken out and I can do it in a heartbeat” (Bradley, 2008). Blanchard had also been overheard claiming that “Obama is the antichrist” (ibid.). In May 2011, an Irish Islamic militant, Khalid Kelly, was arrested for threatening to assassinate the President after he stated in public that “Personally, I would feel happy if Obama was killed. How could I not feel happy when a big enemy of Islam is gone?” (Associated Press, 2011). Six months later, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho was arrested for firing a semi-automatic weapon from his car on Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C., seven rounds of which hit the White House. On investigation it was found that Ortega-Hernandez believed President Obama to be the antichrist and the Devil (Gresko, 2011).

Religious conspiracies abounded like never before — a consequence of the severe cognitive dissonance present in the minds of several people, with regard to the possible accomplishments of a Black man. Such dissonance also resulted in the emergence and perpetuation of the birther conspiracy theory.[4] Prolific allegations were hurled by a full 33.3% of the American population (Ali, 2017), plebeians and politicians alike, both in public and in private, that the President practiced the religion of Islam in secret (Parlett, 2014). The allegations were made — and continue to be made in an enduring way — despite repeated public assertions by Obama that he was a Protestant by faith (ABC News, 2010; Babington & Superville, 2010; C-SPAN, 2009; Jacobsen, 2011; Marsden, 2011; Miller & Wolfe, 2008). The said allegations were promoted in a particular way by right-wing bloggers and talk show hosts including Michael Savage (Bacon, 2007), an American far-right commentator who has been banned from entering the United Kingdom as a result of his frequent use of hate speech in his radio shows.

Patriot militias comprised of members of the paramilitary, including former police officers and soldiers; tax defiers driven by hard-right ideologies, and “sovereign citizens” (SPLC, 2009) increased in significant number throughout the presidency of Obama. This increase emerged out of the confluence of the primal racial fear, blown up to paranoia, of having a Black man lead the nation; higher comparative levels of immigration to the US by non-Whites, and an overall decrease in the total number of Whites in America. Conspiracy anti-governmental theories proliferated like weeds. These included the theory of the presence of a vast and ‘secret’ network of concentration camps having already been established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in alleged preparation for an unprecedented round-up, long-term incarceration, and possible elimination of dissenting Americans; in addition to nativist-based theories that the US Southwest was going to be reconquered by Mexico.

The author of this book can attest in a personal manner as to the prevalence, pervasive endurance, levels of paranoia, and multiplicity of variations present of the conspiracy theories during her months-long visit to Houston and Tomball, Texas, in late 2016. One of the theories that seemed to be most prevalent was that about the alleged closure of a number of Walmart Supercenters under eminent domain in various locations for nefarious military purposes (L. Chaney, 2016, personal communication). Another very prevalent theory was that about the presence of a ‘secret’ super-highway purported to stretch from South Texas through Kansas and beyond, which was being populated with increasing frequency by military vehicles and personnel — including UN personnel — as a preliminary, but necessary, step toward the alleged forthcoming foreign hostile takeover of America, with treasonous support from the US government led by President Obama. The super-highway was termed “The UN corridor” (ibid.) and it was contended to overlap with and underlie the trade route used for the everyday transportation of commercial merchandise between the US, Canada, and Mexico under the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These conspiracy theories were prevalent even among those self-reporting as evangelical Christians belonging to A House of Prayer. Furthermore, the intransigence of the local belief in such theories was evidenced with great clarity when the author was dissuaded several times in a very strong manner from purchasing a house along the ‘super-highway route,’ despite having been repeatedly provided with such an opportunity.

All the aforementioned are just a snapshot of the death threats, negative racial and religious epithets, and way more targeted toward a Black American who was elected to the presidency of the US. Such threats, epithets, and conspiracy theories persist to this day in a rather virulent manner, in particular the latter two.

Overt Racism Rises Again

Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority (Arthur Schopenhauer).

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (18 U.S.C. 249) was signed into law in 2009 as the Division E rider to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation came into being in response to the heinous killings of Shepard and Byrd.

The Shepard and Byrd murders. Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old White student who had been beaten almost to death near Laramie, Wyoming, and left hanging on a fence, only to die six days later, because he was homosexual (ABC News, 2004; Ring, 2017). James Byrd, jr., was a 49-year-old African American who had been kidnapped in 2008 in Jasper, East Texas, by three White supremacists, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John King (Boven, 2009; CNN, 1998, 2011). These individuals beat Byrd, slashed his throat, chained him by the ankles to the back of a pick-up truck, urinated on him, dragged him behind it while driving on an asphalt road for three and a half miles, then decapitated him in addition to severing his right arm when they hit a culvert. Byrd had been conscious throughout the entire ordeal. The killers then drove for an additional mile before dumping the body of Byrd in front of an African American church and cemetery on Huff Creek Road. It was reported that this crime was intended to promote the “fledgling White supremacist organization” (CNN, 2011) of Brewer, a former member of the prison gang Confederate Knights of America, a group affiliated with the KKK. The incident has been called “one of the most vicious hate crimes in US history” (ibid.).

Taken together, the crimes against Shepard and Byrd provide a perfect example of dual minority status, with a concurrent dual level of exposure and vulnerability to related threats and victimization. The killers of Shepard were given life sentences because his parents pleaded with the court for mercy on their behalf (ABC News, 2004). Brewer and King, two of the White supremacists who killed Byrd, were sentenced to death, while Berry was given life in prison (Boven, 2009). Brewer was executed in 2011. He said the following before dying: “As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again to tell you the truth” (Lee, 2011). King remains on death row pending appeals.

None of the above convictions against the perpetrators were attained on the basis of hate crime legislation, since neither Wyoming, nor Texas had any such laws on the books at the time. Meanwhile, in 2004, two White teenagers were charged with desecrating the grave of Byrd with racial slurs and profanities (Rosenblatt, 2013). In 2013, the producers of the documentary Byrd: The life and tragic death of James Byrd, jr., declared without hesitation that they would never show the film in Jasper, Texas, because “the town has not changed since James Byrd” (ibid.) in relation to its issues of White supremacy and racism.

The Black Lives Matter movement. In 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was established on social media by three African American female community organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Torneti (Zarya, 2015). BLM came into being in reaction to the acquittal of the 28-year-old Hispanic male, George Zimmerman, on grounds of insufficient evidence during his trial by jury over the death by shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American high school student in Sanford, Florida. Martin was reported to have been unarmed during the incident, which occurred after an altercation. The primary aim of BLM was to campaign against the dehumanization, violence, and systemic racism toward African Americans. The secondary aim was to address issues of racial profiling, reported police brutality, and racial inequity in the criminal justice system.

BLM became recognized as a new civil rights movement in 2014 after several protests were carried out by its members in the violent deaths of another two African Americans: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City (Day, 2015; Demby, 2014; Luibrand, 2015; Ross, 2015). Reactions to BLM, however, were swift. The All Lives Matter movement was established as a counterpart to BLM (May, 2016; Townes, 2016) in an attempt to both minimize the original message and establish the valid premise that all human lives matter, not just Black lives. Blue Lives Matter was created by law enforcement supporters after two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, were shot during the protests that occurred in relation to the death of Michael Brown (BBC, 2015). BLM has become an international movement, with over 30 chapters in the US and chapters overseas.

More Systemic Racism

What I did not yet know so intensely was the hatred of the White American for the Black, a hatred so deep that I wonder if every White man in this country, when he plants a tree, doesn’t see Negroes hanging from its branches (Jean Genet).

The Ferguson, Missouri riots. The year 2014 saw the rise of the repeated public unrest and race riots in the city of Ferguson,[5] Missouri. These protests and riots took place in reaction to the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African American male, Michael Brown, by a 28-year-old White police officer, Darren Wilson, subsequent to a reported robbery and assault at a nearby convenience store (Kesling, 2014; Lieb & Zagier, 2014; Robles & Bosman, 2014). Wilson said that he was attacked and was not indicted by a grand jury that was convened to determine his status (Davey & Bosman, 2014).

After the shooting, the body of Brown lay on the ground, exposed, for about four hours in one of the streets of Ferguson (Kesling, 2014; Lieb & Zagier, 2014; Robles & Bosman, 2014). City residents gathered around the body in disbelief and expressed great vocal indignation. Protests started to grow and turned violent after the dog of a police officer happened to urinate on a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers that had been set up for Brown by his mother — a memorial later crushed by police vehicles that rode over it (Follman, 2014).

The Ferguson police department (FPD) implemented curfews and deployed 150 officers in riot gear with tear gas, smoke bombs, flash grenades, and rubber bullets in an attempt to restore order (Kesling, 2014; Lieb & Zagler, 2014; Robles & Bosman, 2014). First Amendment violations occurred in relation to the news media throughout the entire incident.

One journalist was ordered by the police to cease reporting (Argus Radio, 2014; Suhr & Salter, 2014). An officer was caught on film yelling, “Bring it, you fucking animals, bring it” (Terkel, 2014). The reporters Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly of The Washington Post and The Huffington Post respectively were arrested for not moving fast enough in the face of a 45-second countdown when officers were attempting to clear out a McDonalds store (Byers & Gold, 2014). The general editor of The Washington Post later issued a statement in which he declared that “there was absolutely no justification for Wesley Lowery’s arrest [because the behavior of the police was] wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news” (Lowery, 2014). Journalists of Al-Jazeera America were tear-gassed and had their video recording equipment seized and dismantled by another police officer (Mathis-Lilley, 2014; MintPress News, 2014). Al-Jazeera America called this incident an “egregious assault on the freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story” (Pearson, Cabrera, & Soichet, 2014).

President Obama issued a statement in which he declared that:

“There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground” (The White House, 2013).

A no-fly zone was declared over the city of Ferguson by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in an attempt to keep the helicopters of reporting news media out of the area (The New York Times & Associated Press, 2014). The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, called for “all to exercise restraint, for law enforcement officials to abide by US and international standards in dealing with demonstrators” (Carey & McAllister, 2014).

In the meantime, violent social unrest continued in Ferguson in reaction to both the original shooting of Michael Brown and its law enforcement aftermath, in particular the heavy police militarization (Alcindor & Bello, 2014). This unrest was characterized by arson and Molotov cocktails, lootings, generalized vandalism, and even the throwing of rocks (The Plain Dealer, 2014; Yang, 2014). Missouri state troopers and the National Guard were called in to take over security of the city. The Use of Force Doctrine[6] was questioned in addition to the regular use of modern-day prisons for debtors in the city (National Public Radio, 2015), as well as for-profit policing (CNN, 2015) and the ongoing de facto implementation of racial segregation in Ferguson public schools (ProPublica, 2015).

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, escalated to such a degree that the DOJ had to intervene and a federal investigation was conducted into the practices of the FPD (Barrett, 2014). A year later, the DOJ found that the FPD had engaged in unlawful misconduct against the people of Ferguson through its pattern of racial stereotyping and excessive force in response to crimes (US DOJ, 2015; The New York Times, 2015). Overwhelming evidence was found of the application of discriminatory fines and charges, including predatory fining (Tabarrok, 2015). Some examples are given below:

“Overwhelming evidence of minor municipal code violations resulting in multiple arrests, jail time, and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over. One woman . . . received two parking tickets for a single violation in 2007 that then totaled $151 plus fees. Over seven years later, she still owed Ferguson $541 — after already paying $550 in fines and fees, having multiple arrest warrants issued against her, and being arrested and jailed on several occasions.

“FPD has communicated to officers not only that they must focus on bringing in revenue, but that the department has little concern with how officers do this. FPD’s weak systems of supervision, review, and accountability . . . have sent a potent message to officers that their violations of law and policy will be tolerated, provided that officers continue to be ‘productive’ in making arrests and writing citations.

“This culture within FPD influences officer activities in all areas of policing, beyond just ticketing. Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority. They are inclined to interpret the exercise of free-speech rights as unlawful disobedience, innocent movements as physical threats, indications of mental or physical illness as belligerence. Police supervisors and leadership do too little to ensure that officers act in accordance with law and policy, and rarely respond meaningfully to civilian complaints of officer misconduct. The result is a pattern of stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment” (US DOJ, 2015).

The Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, declared in an interview that the events in Missouri pointed to “a real racial problem in the US” (Coyle, 2014). The Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, cited the Ferguson findings of the DOJ in her written dissent in Utah v. Strieff of 2016 (579 U.S.) as evidence of systemic racial bias in police practice across the country.

The Ongoing Water Crisis

The histories of mankind are histories only of the higher classes (Thomas Robert Malthus).

Systemic racism in Flint, Michigan. That same year also saw the commencement of a serious water crisis in the blue-collar industrial city of Flint, Michigan; another majority-Black city that was ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the US in terms of violent crime (Ganim & Tran, 2016). The crisis began when Flint River became the drinking source for over 100,000 city residents instead of Lake Huron (CNN, 2017). This switch in potable water sources was implemented by the City of Flint as part of cost-cutting measures to address its water fund shortfall. A full 41.2% of Flint residents were living below the poverty line. The water from Lake Huron was treated with regularity by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Flint River had for several years been made up of water of very poor quality due to the presence “of fecal coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, oils and toxic substances” (Leonardi & Gruhn, 2001). The river had a reputation as “a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth” (Ganim & Tran, 2016). The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was supposed to be treating the contaminated stream with corrosion inhibitors. However, it repeatedly failed to do this in violation of federal law (CNN, 2017).

When the City of Flint decided to switch drinking water sources from Lake Huron to Flint River, lead from the aging service lines to the city homes started leaching into the water supply, contaminating the ‘potable’ water source with high elevated levels of neurotoxin (WNEM-TV, 2016). Lead concentration levels were reported to be at 20 parts per billion (ppb) — five parts higher than the federal actionable level of 15 ppb (Associated Press, 2017a). The lead also conjoined with the high levels of untreated iron already present in the water. The City of Flint issued two water boiling advisories for various parts of the city. However, the Flint plant of General Motors stopped using tap water in its everyday operations, because of the high level of chlorine also present in the water supply.

In January 2015, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department offered to reconnect Flint to the safe water supply from Lake Huron, but this offer was rejected by city officials on the grounds of cost (CNN, 2017). Members of the Flint City Council voted two months later to reconnect the water supply from Detroit, but their vote was overridden by the emergency manager in charge. In September 2015, Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, released the results of a clinical study, which showed that an increasing number of children were presenting for treatment with high lead blood levels, hair loss, and rashes since the water supply had been changed to Flint River (Ganim & Tran, 2016). Hanna-Attisha was attacked in public by both local and state officials for the results of the study. Three months later, however, a state of emergency was declared for Flint by the mayor of the city, Karen Weaver (CNN, 2017). In addition, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease had occurred throughout the county between June 2014 and November 2015, with 10 persons losing their lives and 77 others being affected in an adverse manner (Al Hajal, 2016).

In January 2016, the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, proclaimed a state of emergency for Flint and called in the National Guard to distribute potable water to city residents (CNN, 2017). A federal state of emergency was proclaimed less than two weeks later by President Obama who authorized a budget of five million dollars in aid for the stricken city (The White House, 2016). Flint residents were ordered to use bottled or filtered water for drinking and bathing purposes until the public health issues could be resolved.

Four governmental officials resigned over the water crisis and its mishandling (Fonger, 2016). The officials were from the City of Flint, the Michigan DEQ, and the Michigan Environmental Protection Agency. The DEQ chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance was fired. Thirteen criminal cases were filed in the courts against both local and state officials in relation to the public health consequences of the crisis. In the meantime, the 90thpercentile of lead concentrations in Flint fell to 12 ppb by December 2016 (Associated Press, 2017a).

The Michigan Civil Rights commission report. On February 17, 2017, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) issued a report on the ongoing water crisis in Flint. After multiple investigations and several hearings were held at various levels throughout the city and beyond, the MCRC found that “historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias” (ibid.) had played a significant role in the onset, handling, and aftermath of the water crisis. The MCRC continued:

“The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes for generations” (ibid.).

The MCRC also found that if the problem had arisen in a majority-White and more affluent city such as, for example, Ann Arbor or Birmingham, Michigan, rather than in Flint, both the response to and handling of the problem would have been quite different at local and state levels. The Flint water crisis is ongoing to this day, with residents now having to pay for the cost of water they still cannot drink (Dennis, 2017).

Overt Racism Grows

It is impossible to end hatred with hatred (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi).

The Dylann Roof massacre. In 2015, a 21-year-old unemployed, self-professed, self-radicalized White supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, shot nine adult African Americans to death with a Glock .45 caliber pistol during a prayer service that was being held at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; an historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina (Blinder & Sack, 2016; Waters & Berman, 2016). Roof had sat worshiping with the people for about an hour before killing them in cold blood (Adams, 2017). In the words of the US attorney, Nathan Williams, the young adult had stopped “so he could reload more magazines and kill more people . . . It was an act of tremendous cowardice, shooting people as they have their eyes closed in prayer, shooting them on the ground” (ibid.).

On his arrest, Roof declared with repeated laughter that he had carried out the massacre in the hope of starting a race war (Sanchez & O’Shea, 2016). “Somebody had to do it,” he said, “Black people are killing White people every day . . . What I did is so miniscule compared to what they do to White people every day” (ibid.). He proclaimed in a written manifesto that he had developed supremacist views in reaction to Black-on-White crime and the earlier shooting of Trayvon Martin:

“I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well, someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world and I guess that has to be me” (Sanchez & Payne, 2016; The New York Times, 2016).

The young adult had told one of his victims before killing her, “Y’all are raping our White women, y’all are taking over the world” (Sanchez & O’Shea, 2016).

Further excerpts from Roof’s manifesto capture with clarity the core issues of racism and racial sociopolitical ordering in America:

“As an American, we are taught to accept living in a melting pot, and Blacks and other minorities have just as much right to be here as we do, since we are all immigrants. But Europe is the homeland of White people, and in many ways the situation is even worse there. Black people are racially aware almost from birth, but White people on average don’t think about race in their daily lives. And this is our problem. We need to and have to.

“Even today, Blacks are subconsciously viewed by White people as lower beings. They are held to a lower standard in general. This is why they are able to get away with things like obnoxious behavior in public. Because it is expected of them. Modern history classes instill a subconscious White superiority complex in Whites and an inferiority complex in Blacks. This White superiority complex that comes from learning of how we dominated other peoples is also part of the problem I have just mentioned. But of course I do not deny that we are in fact superior.

“Segregation was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure. Segregation did not exist to hold back Negroes. It existed to protect us from them . . . Not only did it protect us from having to interact with them, and from being physically harmed by them, but it protected us from being brought down to their level. Integration has done nothing but bring Whites down to the level of brute animals. The best example of this is obviously our school system” (The New York Times, 2016).

Dylann Roof was found guilty in federal court on 33 counts of hate crime charges and sentenced to death (The Guardian, 2017; VannDigital.com, 2017). In the meantime, the young murderer stated in writing, “I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed” (Adams, 2017).

Rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant

Their God is my God (Saint Matthew Ayarijia).

During the tenure of Obama as US President, both America and the world saw the formal establishment and unprecedented rise of ISIL — a rise that President Obama admitted was unanticipated and had not been on the radar of US intelligence at the time (Liptak, 2016). ISIL had the self-proclaimed aim of re-establishing the caliphate in the world. Designated as a radical terrorist organization within the religion of Islam, ISIL became renowned for its cruelty, barbarian methods of torture, large-scale massacres, and executions in relation to any people taken captive by its members; in particular those in the countries of Iraq and Syria. It also became infamously famous for taken hostage entire cities and towns, occupying them, then attempting to eradicate the ancient Christian and Yazidi populations from them by various forms of force including executions by burning or crucifixion.

In early 2015, several members of ISIL proceeded to behead in a very public manner 20 Egyptian Coptic Christian male migrant workers and one non-Christian male worker, all of whom had been abducted in Sirte, Libya. Most of the workers hailed from the province of Minya in Upper Egypt. The non-Christian worker, Matthew Ayarijia, was both a citizen of Ghana and a national of Chad (Al-Ahram Canadian Issue, 2015). The executions of the workers took place after they refused at knifepoint to convert to Islam (Al Jazeera, 2015; Vatican Radio, 2015).

The beheadings were captured in a five-minute gruesome video that was broadcast worldwide by ISIL through social media and its own station Al Hayat Media. The captives had been handcuffed with their hands behind their backs and dressed in orange jumpsuits that were characteristic of the dress code of prisoners at the US maximum security detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (CNN Regions, 2015; Malsin, 2015). The ISIL video was titled A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross (Vatican Radio, 2015). Christians were called “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church” (Al Jazeera, 2015).

With a knife stuck at their throat or at their back, the Coptic Christian workers were one by one ordered to convert to Islam or die. They refused. Some workers were seen mouthing the words Ya Rabbi Yasou[7] before being executed. The non-Christian worker, Ayarijia, was ordered to convert to Islam: “Do you reject Christ?” He responded: “Their God is my God” (Al-Ahram Canadian Issue, 2015; The Voice of the Martyrs, 2015) and was beheaded within the next few minutes. These gruesome executions were condemned by leaders worldwide.

The White House proclaimed that the barbarity of ISIL knew no bounds, while the members of the UN Security Council condemned “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder [of the 21 workers]. This crime once again demonstrates the brutality of ISIL, which is responsible for thousands of crimes and abuses against people from all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, without regard to any basic value of humanity” (CNN Regions, 2015). Pope Francis denounced the executions and called the workers “martyrs . . . killed simply because they were Christians” (Pravoslavie.ru [English ed.], 2015). He added that “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard . . . It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ” (ibid.).

On February 21 of that same year, Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that the 20 murdered Copts and the murdered Christian through the baptism of blood would be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium,[8] raised to the altars, and commemorated as martyr-saints for their unwavering faith in God and their voluntary death for Christianity (Vatican Radio, 2015). The names of the 21 martyrs are as follows:

  1. Milad Makeen Zaky;
  2. Abanub Ayad Atirya;
  3. Maged Soliman Shehata;
  4. Youssef Shukry Younan;
  5. Kirollos Boshra Fawzy;
  6. Bishoy Astafanous Kamel;
  7. Samuel Astafanous Kamel;
  8. Malak Ibrahim Sinyout;
  9. Tawadros Youssef Tawadros;
  10. Gerges Milad Sinyout;
  11. Mina Fayez Aziz;
  12. Hany Abdel Mesih Salib;
  13. Samuel Alham Wilson;
  14. Ezzat Boshra Naseef;
  15. Luka Nagaty Anis;
  16. Gaber Mounir Adly;
  17. Esam Badir Samir;
  18. Malak Farag Abrahim;
  19. Sameh Salah Farouk;
  20. Gerges Samir Megally;
  21. Matthew Ayarijia

The commemoration of the martyr-saints was proclaimed to start being held each year on the feast day of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

[1] Parks and Heard (2009).

[2] The association of being Black with being an ape is thought to have commenced with the eugenics literature prevalent around the turn of the 20thcentury. An example of such literature is The Negro a beast, or in the image of God by Charles Carroll (1900).

[3] A majority-White state.

[4] The theory that President Obama was not born in the US. This theory was developed both as a result of cognitive dissonance resulting from covert and at times not-so-covert racism, and political maneuvering to attempt to disqualify Obama as a valid candidate for the presidency.

[5] A majority-Black city.

[6] Legal doctrine that determines if a law enforcement officer is justified in the amount of force s/he can use to gain control of a human person or situation of concern. In the state of Missouri, this doctrine is considered to be more officer-friendly than in other states (Jones, 2014).

[7] Lord Jesus Christ.

[8] The Coptic equivalent of the martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church.


Originally published at catholicsocialdoctrine.us on June 30, 2017.