When we leave a disease unchecked, it can spread and affect the entire body. America is the body, and racism is the disease we have left unchecked. Over the course of our history it has grown and festered, threatening to destroy us as a nation.
While the horrific event at Mother Emmanuel has shaken the very foundation of our city, Charleston has shown much love to the family, church, and community in the wake of this tragedy. But now, the city must do more. It must pledge to the community that we will confront this disease, in all of its forms, head on!
We can prevent future acts against people of color by taking action that gets to the root causes of racism. We Americans cannot keep our head in the sand by ignoring the growing racism in our country, because if we do, we run the risk of that tension reaching a boiling point.
As we have seen, there are bloody consequences of ignoring this problem. Young racists have been embolden by the murders of unarmed black men in Florida, New York, Ohio, Missouri, and now in South Carolina. They feel that if a police officer can shoot down black men in the streets like animals and get away with it, then they can go around doing the same.
The majority of white Americans see the acts at Mother Emanuel AME for what it was — evil, in the form of pure hatred. The majority of white Americans also condemned the killing of Walter Scott by North Charleston Officer Michael T. Slager. Unfortunately, the majority of white Americans also ignore the festering problem of racism and refuse to even acknowledge it exists. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said ,”History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” That statement has remained true up until the Mother Emanuel. Perhaps now it will change. After all, we owe it to the Emanuel 9 to confront racism and build a path for true and sustainable healing.
I am a praying man, as was Dr. King, and El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcom X). But in addition to praying, they were men of direct action. How will you act?
If we are to truly heal, let’s start the dialogue on racism and its effect on both white and black communities. This tragedy illustrates one effect, but what about poverty? We must confront this disease in all it all its forms. It is unacceptable for us to go along as if the system in place is working just fine. We can’t only deal with this in the time of tragedy, but now that we are here, what will we, Charleston, this jewel of a city, do in response to this tragedy?
We can avoid violent and bloody consequences by beginning a dialogue that seeks solutions to the myriad of root causes of white anger and indifference towards African-Americans and people of color, and seeks solutions to a myriad of root causes that continue to perpetuate, particularly in communities of color, conditions which result in generations of people trapped by disproportionate investment, low educational attainment, poor economic conditions, affordable housing needs, discriminate land-use practices, and poor civic engagement. The root causes to white animosity and oppressive conditions each contribute to create and sustain disenfranchised communities. We as Americans must seek, after the dialogue is over, to eliminate conditions that create violent environments where black people are killed by racists and by members within their communities.
We can’t wait until another Emanuel 9 or a Walter Scott to confront the racism that is tearing at the fabric of our nation. If we fail to act, we bear responsibility for our inaction and the violence and pain that results.
This horrific incident has been compared to the church bombing in Selma that took the lives of five little girls, and just like that incident moved the country to finally deal with racism, this incident will move our generation to confront racism and its many faces. We, as a community, are going to find solutions that will eradicate white anger and indifference and conditions that maintain the current abysmal status quo in communities of color. We are not going to wait to act, and history will not record our silence.