It was Wednesday, June 17 , around 8 p.m. when Dylann Roof walked into the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and murdered nine innocent people.
Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson had all welcomed him into their home.
Their tragic deaths have turned up the heat on the already simmering steam surrounding race relations, black identity and pool-party police brutality of prior weeks.
The world is watching and you can almost feel the collective shaking-of-heads at the thought of the ridiculous arguments against real dialogue about race, culture and equity in America.
No matter what medium you choose to get your news; talk shows, news broadcasts or social media, you’ve likely come across numerous threads with professionals and everyday folk debating everything from the NRA (National Riffle Association) to the confederate flag.
One thing that most people agree on is that those nine people who lost their lives because of the color of their skin here in America, home of the “brave”, is absolutely, unequivocally, unacceptable.
Unfortunately this tragedy is just a ripple in an even bigger tidal wave and it is our responsibility to be brave enough to keep the discussion about race relations going.
It takes courage to talk about our feelings about racism, culture and our personal thoughts and feelings about others when nobody’s looking, but it is worth it.
Bloggers, columnists and others have documented their observations that the public, in general, thought that we’d turned a corner when we elected our first black president, but a lot of us knew that we hadn’t.
We could see it in the way that parts of the country reacted to our new president. Some formed radical groups that reminded us of political Klans to “take back” their country. We saw it in the way Congress worked with our black president, or better still, refused to work with him.
The disrespect of elected officials who yell at him from the audience – calling him a liar. The seemingly lax protocols and unprecedented occurrences of intruders who just happened to make it too close to the White House and the first families’ personal space.
Then came the murder of Trayvon Martin and the ridiculous George Zimmerman acquittal. Next, one after another, we watched shocking videos of police brutality against black men that too often ended in death.
Until one morning we wake up to the news of nine people dead at the hands of a bigot from the south and all of a sudden it seems that we are going backwards. But we are not.
Truth is we were not really moving forward. Yes, we’ve made great progress, but we’ve become complacent. There has been much more work to do for many years now but we have all dropped the ball.
We will never rid the world of prejudice – it is human nature for people to desire superiority over others in some way – but we can learn how to live in a world where we respect one another’s differences and try to love more than we hate.
A good place to start would be with the confederate flag. Right now seven states including; Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee have flags that have either blatantly or cleverly incorporated the confederate flag into their states’ flags.
Supporters say it is about heritage and pride, opponents say it is a symbol of racism and hatred. A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 1 in 10 Americans say they have a positive reaction when they see the flag while a disappointing 58% said they were neutral.
In a Yahoo article by Edward McAllister and Rich McKay, Letha Drafts defends her state of South Carolina. She is adamant that Dylann Roof’s terrorist actions are not typical of the people who live there.
Regarding the confederate flag Drafts says that the flag “means heritage” and that “the [civil] war was over state’s rights, not slavery.” While Drafts may believe this to be true the more important fact is that one of the “rights” that the state of South Carolina wanted to protect was the right to own slaves.
It is at this point in our conversation about race relations that we should stop insulting one another’s intelligence. We all know exactly what the confederate flag stands for. It stands for a heritage that included slavery. It is a symbol of hundreds of years of servitude, beatings, lynchings, murders, physical and mental torture, people being treated worse than animals, people being considered animals.
Most of us understand why the swastika is not an accepted symbol. It was used by people who committed heinous crimes against a group of people based on nothing but ideology and feelings of superiority. The confederate flag is no different. Put the confederate flag in a museum and let’s get on with it.
Want to explore more information to help create a more peaceful and equitable America & World?
Check out these great resources:
Aspen Institute | Roundtable on Community Change