The Charleston Shooting has, unfortunately, brought forward some ugly truths that we’ve been trying to ignore.
I am upset on so many levels right now. I am sad beyond belief at the loss of some incredible people. Mothers, fathers, coaches, teachers, public servants. Good people.
I am upset that we continue to have mass shootings in our country and yet, common sense gun laws are still unable to pass in our legal system.
I am upset that we still cower from discussing the issue of racism. We have to change the conversation. We have to HAVE the conversation.
It would be easy for me to pretend that racism does not exist in my country. Because I can (mostly) avoid it. It doesn’t affect me in my daily life. But I always know it’s there.
I am a mother. I advocate for children’s safety and health issues. To me, this is an important topic that impacts our entire society, including our children’s well-being.
Yesterday nine people lost their lives in a city just a couple hours from me (that I once called home), simply because they were black.
I am a 38 year old white, middle class woman. I was born into a farming family in Iowa. My parents were both college educated, my dad was a pilot, my mom a nurse. They went on to very successful careers, and because of my dad’s job as a pilot in the Army, I got to live in several states and in Europe, giving me an insight into different communities and cultures.
I have never been hungry, I have always had a home, college was never even a question, rather almost a requirement. I have traveled, I have experienced life. I have been privileged. I have never once worried that I would not get a job or receive a promotion because of the color of my skin.
However, I do know a little something about being mistreated as a minority because I am a woman. I have experienced double standards because I am a female and witnessed sexual harassment. So, I have a tiny inkling of what prejudice and racism might feel like. I cannot imagine feeling that every day. All the time. Fearing for my children simply because of the color of their skin.
On the other side of the coin, I cannot imagine having enough hatred in my body to mindlessly murder nine beautiful souls, in a prayer meeting.
If there was any question of his motivation, that has now been put to bed, since the shooter admitted he wanted to start a race war.
Now, instead of thinking about what songs to sing in the worship services, black churches are re-evaluating their security strategies.
Their SECURITY STRATEGIES. In CHURCHES. In AMERICA.
Am I the only thinking “WTF?” Is this really the society we live in?
There are good people and there are bad people. It’s always been that way.
There are happy events and there are sad events. It’s always been that way.
There is right, and there is wrong. It has been, and always will be that way.
What happened in Charleston highlights so many issues that we face in our country that we seem unwilling as a nation to have real, change inducing dialogues about: gun control, mental health, and yes, racism. Instead of discussing the racism, some were trying to make this about an attack on religion. Or we blame it on him being mentally ill. (While I have no idea what actually causes a person to take such hate motivated anger and kill innocent people, I think we would be remiss in NOT addressing mental health issues. BUT… let’s not lose focus on the hate crime and racism.) Instead of talking about access to guns … has that even come up yet?
The shooting in Charleston highlights the absolute craziness that pervades our society. The violence, the weapons, the hate. We are the only developed country in the world that has these problems with mass shootings. WHY are we unwilling to do anything to stop it?
Because it’s a violation of our freedoms, our rights?
Do you REALLY feel free? When you have to be worried about being gunned down in your prayer group, ARE YOU FREE?
Anyone who would claim racism is not an issue in our country is naive or pretending. Even our own SC governor, an Indian American woman, claimed that we “put that to bed” when we elected a minority female as governor. In the mean time, one extremely racist state senator called her a “rag head” in a public speech.
Racism isn’t dead. It’s not even buried. It’s alive. And it needs to be acknowledged.
Racism is uncomfortable. It’s difficult to have the conversations that need to be had. We don’t want to step on toes. I remember how uncomfortable I was when I had to talk to my son’s 2nd grade teacher (a wonderful, smart, kind African American woman) — *side note – I was super uncomfortable in that moment in trying to decide if I describe her as African American, black, brown?? — and tell her that Bug, my son, came home and said he heard one of the other students say, “You can never trust a black person.” I wanted her to know that if he ever repeated something like that it did not come from his home. We had to have a big talk with our son and make sure he understood that is not okay, and we love and respect and are kind to everyone. Turns out, he didn’t even really know what a “black person” is, because I guess they describe black as brown in school now. And, for the record, his BFF is “brown.”
The Confederate flag, which never really bothered me, bothers me today as I see it still flying on our state house grounds. It bothers me because I know how upsetting it is to other people. It bothers me because, whether the origins were racist in nature or not, it has become a symbol of racism to many people. And in my opinion, by allowing signs of hatred and oppression to be prominent, we, in some way, allow this bigotry to continue.
As long as we continue to close our eyes to those symbols that still rip holes into our neighbor’s hearts, we cannot heal or move forward.
Let’s look at some statistics here, provided by the FBI and the UCLA school of law:
This is a REAL PROBLEM. I didn’t research how often guns were used in these hate crimes, but my guess is that it’s frequent.
The victims were good people. They were in church on a Wednesday night. We owe it to them to do something.
Not just say we’re going to do something. Not just pray for them and their loved ones.
We have to have a conversation about these ugly truths. We have to do what we can to make the Charleston shooting the last one.
You can start the healing by knowing their names. And you can read about each of them HERE.
They were identified as:
Clementa Pinckney, 41, the senior pastor at the church and a very passionate public servant, serving as a state senator
Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Ethel Lance, 70
Susie Jackson, 87
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Myra Thompson, 59
Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49