When, America, Will It End?
The massacre inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Caroline, cuts deeply into the souls of every decent person across this nation. The faithless, unprovoked act of a 21 year old white man during a prayer service is unconscionable. Yet, it is not rare or historically unusual. The killing of nine human beings, six women and three men, including the pastor of the church, shatters any illusion about safety on sacred grounds. It is possible the weapon used had been given to the butcher only recently as a birthday present.
The events on that fateful Wednesday night inside the church where the murderer sat with his victims for almost an hour before pulling his deadly weapon and repeatedly firing and re-loading, creates a veil of tears that blurs any notion of redemption. Is it safe anywhere in America for Black people? The church is the citadel of hope and the sanctuary to escape fear.
The precision and execution of the killer’s plot on the terms of his choosing sends a chilling message to Black people: our lives are at risk at all times in all places. Consider the site of this demonic decision, a historic African American religious institution, where its founding pastor, the Reverend Denmark Vesey, was a martyr to end slavery in Confederate South Carolina in 1822. Emanuel AME is a symbol of Black love, courage, and the advancement of justice.
It must be made clear that the threat of death at the hands of racially-insane culprits will not deter our faith or lower our resolve to address the plague of violence that saturates American culture. Instead, we must re-double our commitment to honor the lives of every human person as sacred. We hold this truth that an act against innocent people is a direct assault on God who creates, shapes, and inspires every human person in divine imagery.
The killer did not act alone. There is a source for his hatred. He was informed by others who share his depravation and support his actions. A culture of callous, criminal conduct produced the basis for his deadly deed. We have witnessed these acts before in school yards, a movie theater, classrooms, and in the House of God. In too many cases, young white men pulled the triggers and left their lifeless victims slumped dead in places where they fell.
How long will America perpetuate domestic terrorism and senseless shootings by her young sons? What will it take to change attitudes, behaviors, and minds to transform this society into a haven of sanity? When are too many deaths enough to say, “No more?” Will the necessary change come only after the last drop of blood splatters on the powerful faces of those who have never felt the cruel course of denial?
For now, once again, Black people in America weep not only for our own who have been slaughtered without mercy, but also for the lost souls who don’t realize the blunt reprisals of unyielding evil and insensitive racism.
Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs
For Human Integrity