A Grieving Nation

On June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot nine people to death. The massacre is currently being investigated as a hate crime. Roof is a 21-year-old white male. All the victims of the shooting were black.

This is yet another violent attack against black Americans who, in the past year, have led demonstrations on the streets of Cleveland, Ferguson, and other cities across the country to protest against the devaluation of their lives. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray--we know their names and their stories and black people continue to die. Families continue to grieve for the mothers, fathers, friends, and children they've lost. While the Charleston massacre differs from the killings of Garner, Rice, Brown, and Gray by the fact that it was not perpetrated by a police officer, Dylann Roof was motivated by the same racist and toxic belief that black people are not human beings worthy of respect and the right to exist.

So many families are grieving right now and many in this country grieve with them. Children have lost parents; parents have lost children. In the wake of a mass shooting, we all have hopes that things will change--gun laws will be improved, people will come together in solidarity. We think our world can't possibly go on like this, but it does and the next shooting happens and the cycle continues. 

Today, the Confederate flag still hangs in South Carolina's capital city of Columbia. This symbol of white supremacy and enslavement flutters in the wind for all to see. We are grieving, yes, but with our grief we should add shame. Shame that we watch these massacres happen and don't change anything. Shame that we pretend as though having a black president means racism is over. Shame that black people die on our streets and we do nothing to stop it.

As the days and weeks go on, I'm sure the media will focus on Roof and his motives and his childhood and what made him do it. They will give him notoriety and the victims will fade away, but we should do all we can to remember the lives he ended. We should remember their families and friends, give them compassion, offer them help as they grieve and mourn. We should tell their stories. We should let our grief awaken us, let it fuel us to change gun laws and talk about racism and discuss how we can achieve racial justice in this country.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49

Daniel Simmons Sr., 74

Susie Jackson, 87

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Tywanza Sanders, 26

 Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45

Myra Thompson, 59

Ethel Lance, 70