I often wonder what moments will be remembered in history. Which moments, in retrospect, will seem to mark a turning point, a watershed change.
Will history remember a church founded by Reverend Morris Brown? A church burnt to the ground in 1822 for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. A church rebuilt, only to be forced underground for 30 years after Charleston outlawed all black churches in 1834.
Will history remember the day in 2015 when nine black men and women were murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church?
To be surprised is to be naive.
All this has happened before, and we’ve done far too little to keep it from happening again.
“I have to do it,” the gunman was quoted as saying. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
Then he murdered people at church.
It may be the act of one deranged man, but its the rhetoric of too much of our nation. For too long we have allowed such hateful speech to flourish, giving a pass to hateful ideas – too afraid or unsure of how to intervene.
Where did the gunman learn to hate like that?
He learned it from us. From white America. From people who nurtured his hate or who simply left it there, unconfronted.
They say the gunman sat with parishioners for an hour before opening fire. He sat with them as they discussed biblical verse and prayed.
But in that garden of Gethsemane, it was Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s and Cynthia Hurd’s cup that would not pass. It was Myra Thompson, Sharonda Singleton and Tywanza Sanders who had to die to remind us that there is still hate and evil in this world.
That there is still hate and evil in our communities.
You wouldn’t think we’d need reminding, but clearly we do – since black churches are burned and black bodies are scattered in our streets. And yet we, white America, continue to sit by and sigh.
And nothing changes.
I want to make sense of this senseless horror. I want an action I can check to solve this problem once and for all.
But there are no easy answers, and it will take hard, long work for solutions.
All I know is that we can do better, and amidst this heartache, this pain, and sorrow we must do better.
How many more have to die?