I have a confession to make:
This morning, after reading through countless updates on the Charleston massacre that occurred at the infamous AME church , the night of June 18, I wept. Angry, painful tears. It was the first time I’d actually cried when hearing of stories with race as a backdrop of the tragedy. I wasn’t expecting to cry. But I genuinely felt something well up in my soul when I read the specific script the shooter uttered before he opened fire on the attendees…after having spent almost an hour sitting among them while they had Bible Study.
Those people had welcomed him. They were doing exactly as their faith instructs. And without warning, 9 lives were taken. My tears became angrier as I read a 5 year old girl was there that night and had only survived because her grandmother told her to “play dead”.
This wasn’t the first time I felt angry. From Eric Garner’s death by choke hold (#Icantbreathe), to the shooting of young Trayvon Martin, I was able to find strength to carry on despite constant evidence that the undercurrent of racism was getting stronger and bolder.
But today, I wept. Not only because of the blatant act of domestic terrorism that ended 9 lives. No, I cried because public opinion (and some of my friends/acquaintances) still refuse to see that there is a race problem in America. My pain continues to be policed and forced into politics and generalized explanations (e.g. mental illnesses) that makes me feel I have NO room to properly grieve. I want to lash back in anger, but I know that reacting will only add to the wounds that exist.
Here’s a summary from an article on CNN.com:
Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from a survivor, a close friend.
Johnson told CNN her friend recounted the man coming into the church, asking for the minister.
“My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard,” Johnson said.
When the son of her friend pleaded with the shooter to stop, Johnson said the gunman replied: “‘No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”
Her friend pretended she was dead.
“But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.
From what she heard, the gunman reloaded five times.
Before he left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said no.
“And he said good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself,” Johnson told CNN.
A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”
This was undeniably a hate crime, where black people were targeted. There was fore-thought. And I’ve been told countless times today, both directly and indirectly, that my emotions aren’t warranted. The script of my outrage has been snatched from me in an attempt to change the conversation.
Majority culture is allowed to be vocal and outraged about abortion. Christians being targeted by ISIS. Supporting the troops. Even gun control (or lack thereof). But bring up racism and doors will slam shut in your face. It is the pink elephant that Americans cannot talk about. It does not exist. It cannot exist.
Accepting its existence would mean that we would have to have an old, uncomfortable conversation about the very fabric of American culture. We would have to miseducate and reeducate our children about what it means to be racially unified in America. Apologies would have to be given and accepted. Change would actually have to happen. Social justice would have to become synonymous with Christianity. And hypocrisy would stick out like a sore thumb, finally, instead of being successfully hidden in the threads of our nation. And I would no longer have to apologize for being young, black, and angry.