Monday, June 22, 2015

We should speak of it often (#Charleston)

I hear my children playing in the backyard, their joy and laughter a glaring contrast to the despondency I feel about what happened in South Carolina.

Like most of America, I've been thinking, meditating, praying about Wednesday's shootings. Wondering what Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson and the Reverends Clementa Pinckney, Daniel L. Simmons and DePayne Middleton-Doctor said to loved ones before leaving for Bible study at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that night. I wept as I listened to the victims' families, their spirits anguished and voices quavering, forgive alleged killer Dylann Roof for taking "something very precious away from [them]."
Wednesday's massacre in Charleston is our generation's Birmingham

The 1963 church bombing that killed four little girls was one of the first things that came to mind when I read the initial reports about Charleston. Both murders were acts of white supremacist terrorism, both took place in a spiritual refuge, both ignited (again) a national debate about race, race relations and institutionalized racism in this country. 

Outrage over the death of four innocent children marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and bolstered support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

What will we do about Charleston? 

After we've read and heard and posted and tweeted and regrammed the umpteenth news story about the killings, the outage, the grief, the Confederate flag, gun control, white supremacy, etc. will we be numb? Will we cry and rage and ask ourselves, "How could this happen again?" only to return to the status quo until another insufferable act?

On Friday morning, two days after the attack, I sought refuge online. I went to my favorite blogs, not wanting to escape from reality but rather to look for community. What were other people (not the media) saying about Charleston? I wasn't expecting anything heavy-handed, these were lifestyle and fashion blogs after all. But absolutely nothing? Not one well wish or thought or word about what I think was an egregious act of terrorism. It was as if nothing had ever happened.   

I was so upset by the radio silence I wrote to one of my favorite bloggers, whose work I greatly admire.

Joanna responded to my comment a day later.

I appreciate Joanna's prompt reply and the honesty and authenticity I read in her response. And I'm hopeful our conversation will start a dialogue on her site about out-of-the-comfort-zone types of topics. When one has a PA system as powerful as her's (Cup of Jo boasts 5 million monthly page views) I believe one has a responsibility to use that megaphone. To stay silent on these matters (matters which are much more than "news stories") only contributes to what Esquire's Charles P. Pierce calls "anesthetic innocence."

So what can we do?

We can sign petitions, follow civil rights activists on social media, be mindful parents and neighbors and bosses, be humble and moral and kind. We can speak up, wake up and never forget.  

Then we can hear the sweet sound of our children's laughter and know we are leaving them a better, more hopeful world.

"Nine" by Barry Blitt will appear on the June 29 cover of The New Yorker.