As a pastor of a prominently African American Church, the recent shootings that took place in Mother Emanuel, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in the South, continue to remind us that racism is alive, screaming and kicking.
According to a survivor, the shooter said, “You rape our women and are taking over our country, you have to go.”
This kind of thought does not appear from out of the air, but rather is born and nurtured out of relationships and a society that views one people as less than and not fully human.
This incident is reminiscent of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which occurred 52 years old in Birmingham, Alabama. History records that four little girls died while in church. The girls were changing into their choir robes in preparation for service. A few minutes later, a bomb exploded, killing them.
This incident, like the one that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, happened to a people in worship. And, in both cases, people who espoused hate against another race planned and facilitated a horrific act.
In the aftermath of this hate crime, what are the takeaways? First, we must acknowledge that racism continues to affect what we could be as a nation.
When we fail to acknowledge the gifts and contributions of others, how can we hope to galvanize the best of who we are such that our nation becomes stronger?
According to the Southern Poverty Center, nineteen hate groups exist in South Carolina and approximately 934 hate groups are active in America. Knowing that this is our reality should propel us as individuals and families to start conversations in our communities, which declare and affirm the humanity of all regardless of their race.
Second, in addition to preaching love and tolerance, we must intentionally reach out to those who don’t necessarily look like us and at least start a conversation.
Maybe we ought to start out by saying, “Hi, my name is…”
Photo via flickr user jalexartis