Following the massacre of nine Black congregants at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday, public displays of support have come from a range of individuals. Diverse groups of people from the area and other states have looked on at Charleston during this difficult time with a common sense of empathy and disgust for the actions by killer and White Supremacist, Dylann Root (21). But, even amidst an almost unified response to the Emanuel AME Church massacre, Twitter trolls conjured up a hashtag called “#GoHomeDeray.” Its purpose was simply to target, silence, and exclude social justice activist, writer, and speaker, DeRay McKesson, from continuing the very important work of supporting the families affected by Roof’s killing spree in Charleston last week.
Like McKesson, I was surprised to see that the hashtag was trending. It was an especially egregious display of White Supremacy because the folks on Twitter championing the tag were insinuating that McKesson’s presence in Charleston would somehow worsen the issues facing that city. Since many Whites see protesting as inherently criminal and violent (sometimes even more so than actual violence against actual Black people), they were concerned that McKesson might “agitate” racial tensions in Charleston. They were, in essence, conflating the massacre that happened just a few days earlier, with the very important work of advocating, giving voice to, and working with a community which has been ravaged by unprovoked, targetted violence.
Many Twitter users expressed concern over the use of this hashtag noting that it was yet another display of racial hatred and disregard for the nine lives which were lost last week.
Some Twitter users expressed thanks and appreciation for McKesson, aware that the #GoHomeDeray hashtag was unfairly diminishing the work he has been doing since we first saw him in Ferguson, MO last year following the murder of Michael Brown.
McKesson was also interviewed about his thoughts on the hashtag.
When asked about his presence in Charleston, McKesson said, “I wouldn’t be here if those nine people had not been killed.” He went on, “Racism is alive and well in places like South Carolina, and in towns across America. So I’m here in solidarity like many other people who’ve come to express their sympathy for the victims, and to figure out how we fight systems of oppression that continue to kill people.”
And, it is important that he continue to empower these communities through his work and activism. That predominantly White trolls on Twitter have sought to stifle that says that he, and those of us who also engage in this work, have quite a bit more to do.
Photo Credit: DeRay McKesson/Facebook/Twitter
Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.