The massacre of nine people gathered to study God’s word at historic Emmanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina is more bitter fruit from the prolific orchard of racial hatred that thrives in the fertile soil of the denial, acceptance, encouragement, and apathy vis-à-vis racism that exists in our society.
It has created an environment where an individual can feel empowered to carry out such a heinous act simply because the objects of his hatred are of African descent. It is an environment that feeds the misguided perception that because those nine victims were black, it is somehow permissible to disregard the law and human decency to commit mass murder. How could Dylann Roof sink to such depths of human depravity?
It is alleged that he immersed himself in the racist vitriol he found on various websites of groups advocating white supremacy. What is the basis for this fringe movement that attracted him? To assert that racism is not the issue is as absurd as proclaiming that there is no sand in the Sahara desert. The millions of minorities in our society that endure the manifestations of racism on a continuing basis are living points of validation that this pervading evil exists.
How many more egregious acts must occur before our leaders and society as a whole acknowledge the reality of systemic, institutional, and individual racism and commit to developing the necessary strategies to confront it and begin to initiate a transformational shift in attitudes and understanding?
I hope and pray that the response to this tragedy will be different; that we will move beyond rhetoric to action that brings about a commitment to finally come to grips with racism honestly and intentionally.
Being true to their faith, the families and fellow church members of the victims have made a profound movement toward healing in their stated willingness to forgive this dreadful individual for his atrocious acts of murder and desecration of a holy space. Thanks be to God.
Eugene James, Regional Minister
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Michigan Region