These past few days I have been frantically trying to wrap my brain around the slaughter of nine African-American men and women at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston S.C last Wednesday night.
The crime was heinous, profane and an extreme act of cowardice. It was pre-meditated, mindful and calculated. Above all — it was a racist act of terror.
To the credit of law enforcement, the perpetrator, Dylann Storm Roof, was apprehended within 18 hours, over 200 miles away in North Carolina and flown back to Charleston, where he was jailed.
At Roof’s subsequent bond hearing on Friday, one by one, each of the flesh and blood survivors of the victims tearfully expressed their hurt, their agony, their sorrow and their loss of all that Dylann Roof had taken away from them –and the rest of us. Then, in what must have been nine of the more extraordinarily charitable moments in human history, each of the nine survivors said to Roof, “I forgive you.”
I do not possess the amazing and extraordinary grace of the victims’ survivors. I’m mad as hell at Dylann Roof and the carnage he has wrought. The truth is I am not nearly as quick to forgive him as are some others. A higher truth is maybe I can never forgive him. Maybe. If that ruffles Christian sensibilities, I’m sorry. (Not really!)
Besides Roof, another focus of my ire is a number of public actors – artful dodgers, we might call them—and their initial reactions to Roof’s heinous deed:
U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says Roof was “…looking for Christians to kill.” Come on Lindsey, you are not that dumb. Roof was looking to kill African-Americans. Period. He expressly said as much and unless one is blind, it’s imminently easier to tell if someone is black than it is to tell if they are a Christian.
Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, initially said the Charleston killings were “an accident.” Later he said he meant “an incident.” Apparently, Rick, you ARE that dumb!
In perhaps the most callously stupid thing ever uttered by a human being, NRA Board Member Charles Cotton blamed one of Roof’s victims, State Sen. Rev. Clementha Pinckney for the killings! Pinckney, who was also the Pastor at Mother Emmanuel, had opposed and voted against an Open Gun Carry measure in a recent session of the South Carolina Legislature. “Eight of his church members, who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church, are dead,” Cotton said. “Innocent people died because of his political position on the issue.”
Charles, Clementha Pinckney was a Man of the Cloth. It is not unreasonable to expect that he would oppose Open Carry. And while I am no Bible scholar, the last time I checked, Jesus Himself did not carry a Glock. Pssst! Based upon this comment, sounds like you,Charles Cotton, are now qualified to be a 2016 Republican candidate for President.
Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor, on the morning after the killings issues a statement:
“Michael, Rena, Nalin and I are praying for the victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church. While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
Excuse me, Nikki. Really!? Unless one happens to be as dumb as a box of hammers, when a group of African-Americans is annihilated by a white guy, one who says at the time that his purpose is to kill black folks, it’s pretty obvious that racism is the root-cause of the crime.
Nikki goes on to say “Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayer.”
Keep your prayers, Nikki. Just keep ‘em. Too many times when there is yet another mass killing, public figures respond not by saying what can they do to possibly prevent another one. Rather they say “We’re gonna lift the victims up in prayer…to give the victims the strength to get through this…”
The sentiment is a polite ‘dismissive’, a substitute for doing something practical, something tangible. Too often it’s a platitude, a polite substitute for doing anything at all. Rather, Nikki, if you really want to help, DO SOMETHING …something that people can see, feel, hear, touch, and smell. To many citizens, both inside and outside of South Carolina, the Stars and Bars is a symbol of racism and hatred. It is a symbol of painful times–a poke in the eye from the past. One will recall, that it’s not even the South Carolina state flag. And while striking down the Confederate flag from the entrance to the state capital won’t in and of itself cure a toxic racial atmosphere, it’s a good start.
Dylann Roof committed one of the most cowardly terrorist acts of the New Millennium. But his crime is abetted by the artful dodgers referenced above. Too many of those folks, who are political leaders, folks who have offered themselves to us as candidates for the Presidency have failed to even acknowledge the existence of racism in this crime. How sad. How intellectually dishonest. No one expects a single leader to solve a problem that has existed forever. But not to acknowledge the problem exists is cowardice plain and simple. I hope Governor Haley and the would-be-Presidents –artful political dodgers– are proud of themselves. They shouldn’t be.