I've been thinking all week about what transpired at the Charleston church shooting. I've read Dylann Roof's manifesto. I've learned about his life. I've seen his chili bowl haircut on my TV all week. He's all people seem to be talking about. The perpetrator is all people ever seem to be talking about in situations such as these. It's natural to wonder why people commit such heinous acts.
Here's the thing, no one ever talks about the victims enough in these scenarios. Even if they are mentioned, it's never more than just snippets of information. Typically name, age, and occupation is all you get. Now that we know those things, I'd like to think about who these people really are; the content of their character.
All I can deduce is that the wonderful people of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church welcomed an goofy looking white guy who presumably had a hostile (or at least tense) demeanor into their meeting. They invited this stranger in and asked him to join them in prayer. I can imagine it was awkward for them, but they did as The Lord commanded them. They welcomed him with love in spite of his hate. And Roof gave them hostility, hate, and homicide in exchange for their hospitality and humanity.
I don't know about you, dear reader, but when I see a sketchy guy in the grocery store my first instinct is to high-tail it out of there, not to pray with them. And I'm a white person in a predominately white suburb down south. I have no idea what it's like to go through the systematic racism that millions have historically and continue to go through down here.
But I've seen it. I grew up in it. I grew up in a place where people have said deplorable things about people of different races. I also heard a lot of people say that racism is dead, or that society is color blind, yet we had less than 10 black kids in our entire school system. I believe a lot of these folks probably wanted racism to be dead, but by declaring the battle already over, it became a lot easier for us white folks in our white bubble to stop looking for racism, or worse, turn a blind eye to it. We are conditioned not to see it. But it's everywhere, folks. In some big, newsworthy ways and in a gazillion tiny little ways.
- When I walk out of a store and the security system beeps due to an anti-theft device left on some merchandise, no one assumes me to be a shoplifter. They just motion for me to leave without ever checking my bags.
- I don't have to worry about my son being seen as suspicious if he walks around our neighborhood in a hoodie.
- The McDonald's Barbie toys I got in happy meals growing up were never, ever black Barbies.
- "Nude" color pantyhose is assumed to be a white woman's nude.
- White people were never systematically lynched by mobs (simply for being white) while the justice system looked the other way.
I could totally see how a mostly black congregation would be uncomfortable with this angry white boy walking into their church. Anger and white people have not been a good combination for black people down south. But here's the thing: they cared for him. They cared in the same way Jesus did for the angry mob that descended upon Him to unjustly kill him in the most horrific way possible. They embraced him. And you know what? The friends and family have stated that they have forgiven Dylann Roof in spite of the violence and despair he caused, just as Jesus would have done. Just consider Felicia Sanders, who tragically lost her son, Tywanza. This is what she had to say to Dylann Roof: "Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. But as we say in bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you." We ENJOYED you. WHOA, FULL STOP. If someone walked into my son's house of worship and opened fire on him with that amount of hate in their heart, the only thing I would admit to enjoying is watching them go to prison.
So if Mr Roof was on the hunt for supremacy, he sure found it. Supremacy is defined as: "the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, and status". I think we can all agree that Mr Roof was in power in those awful moments. He came in wielding a gun to a place where he knew there would be none. Power was his purpose. But the power of his bullets couldn't overcome the power of the community he tried to eliminate. Let us as Americans see the moral and spiritual supremacy that the fine people of Emanuel A.M.E. Let us be inspired by that. Let us learn from it. And let us white Americans open our eyes to the fact that racism isn't dead, it is only socially unacceptable. And that is a BIG problem. You know why? It forces racists underground, and therefore causes us to stop seeing the systematic racism, oppression, injustices, and inconveniences faced by so many. Let us pray, let us question things, and let us take action.