Today, the U.S. woke to the news of a terrorist attack in South Carolina. A single white man was welcomed into a Bible study and prayer circle at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, an historically black church. He sat with the other churchgoers for an hour. Then he deliberately, calculatedly shot those around him because he didn’t like the colour of their skin.
In a place of worship, a place of sanctuary and solace from the everyday battles with racism in large and small ways, nine people were murdered.
As news of this horror broke, my social media feeds quickly filled with outpourings of sadness, anger, and worst of all, resignation. White people in my feeds cast around desperately, not knowing what to do, how to help, feeling sick and heartsore. PoC in my feeds got angry. Then they all became the bullhorns that projected the voices of black friends and strangers as they tried, as a community, to process this horror. Their tweets and posts were filled with calls for acknowledgement of the racism still rife in this country, with comparisons between the way Dylann Roof, an armed white man who had just viciously killed nine people in cold blood, was able to be captured alive by police, while too many unarmed black people (Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and far too many others) were killed by police.
But worst of all, worse by far than the pained cries for equality and justice, was the resignation by so many of my black friends that this is how it was, is, and always will be. It is the profound conviction that there is no safe place anymore, that is so heartbreaking.
Though I’ve experienced many deaths of loved ones, I don’t know what it feels like to have my loved one murdered. I don’t know what inter-generational disenfranchisement feels like. Though my skin is dark, I am not African American. I haven’t walked in their shoes, do not intimately know their experience, and cannot speak for them.
I want to say to them that I am sorry, I am standing beside and behind you in solidarity, I am listening to and projecting your calls for action and understanding.
If you’re not African American, and you’re casting about for ways to help, you can donate to the Mother Emanuel Church.
Or, if you’re on Twitter, try searching the following hashtags and retweeting the plaintive cries of black Twitter: #Charleston #CharlestonShooting #BlackLivesMatter.
If you’re on Facebook, you can search the same hashtags, you can repost posts by activists, friends and other black community members.
Don’t judge the way people process their grief and disillusionment with a system that doesn’t keep them safe, by adding well-meaning but uninformed commentary to their tweets or posts.
Do call out racism, prejudice and bigotry where you see it. If you have a friend who always makes racist jokes, but ‘really doesn’t mean anything by it’ (as the shooter did), take them to task. You have more power to influence a friend than a stranger will ever have.
Don’t give that vile young man any more celebrity than he already has. Instead, honour those whose lives he robbed. Speak their names. Hold them in your thoughts. If you pray, then spare a prayer for their families and friends, who now have to rebuild lives without them.
Work to be better, to do better, to expect better.
I’ve chosen not to use the image of the shooter in this post, because I don’t wish to give him any more time in the sun. I’ve chosen not to use the images of any of the slain, out of respect for their families’ pain. I’ve chosen not to describe those who were brutally, senselessly killed as ‘victims’. Instead, I’m choosing to remember who they were, and to represent them with candle light.
May they rest peacefully, and may their lights shine the way to a better path for us.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Pinckney, 41, was a father to two children, Eliana and Malana, according to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church website. He received his first appointment as a pastor at age 18. He was first elected to the state’s House of Representatives in 1996 at age 23, and in 2000 he was elected to the state Senate.
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
The Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, one of the handful of ministerial staff of Emanuel AME Church, was reportedly a speech therapist and girls’ track and field coach at Goose Creek High School.
Myra Thompson, was 59 and meeting with her Bible study group.
Tywanza Sanders, 26, was a 2014 graduate of Allen University’s division of business administration in Columbia, South Carolina.
“He was a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education,” according to a statement from Allen University, a historically Black college located in Columbia, South Carolina.
“He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the Bible Study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.”
Ethel Lee Lance
Ethel Lee Lance, 70, was a sexton at the church.
“Granny was the heart of the family,” her grandson Jon Quil Lance told The Post and Courier outside Medical University Hospital.
She had worked at the church for more than 30 years, he told the newspaper.
“She’s a Christian, hardworking; I could call my granny for anything. I don’t have anyone else like that,” he said.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, was a 31-year employee of the Charleston County Public Library, according to its Facebook page. The St. Andrews Regional Manager “dedicated her life to serving and improving the lives of others,” the library stated. To honor Hurd and the others killed, the Charleston County Public Library’s 16 locations are closed today.
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.
The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74, was a retired pastor from another church in Charleston.
Simmons attended Emanuel AME Church every Sunday for services and Wednesdays for bible study, his daughter-in-law, Arcelia Simmons of Newport News, Virginia, said.
Rev. Simmons died in the hospital’s operating room.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
The Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49.
Susie Jackson, 87, was the oldest of the group.
~ information c/o abc news (and a dear friend who brought it to my attention with her loving tribute)