The horrific shootings at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday are yet another example of the plague of violence and racism that seems to have no end in our society. We may never know what caused that young man to hate so virulently those whom he did not know personally and to take their lives in their house of worship. But, we can know that he has been influenced by the culture of racism, hate, guns and violence that surrounds all of us.
It is in almost every movie and television show, on the lips of politicians, television and internet pundits. We cannot heal what we refuse to acknowledge – ours is a violent culture. In so many ways we are becoming aware that a large portion of the targets of violence are people of color, our African American brothers and sisters. To turn away from the racism hidden in our collective psyche, in our social constructs and institutions is to turn a blind eye on our fellow human beings.
I am reminded of Robert F. Kennedy's statement after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and, ironically, not long before his own death by violence. His speech became known as "The Mindless Menace of Violence".
"Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded... Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire...Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul."
It is my opinion that we can no longer continue to pretend that the travesties we have witnessed, Sanford, Baltimore, Ferguson and now Charleston are isolated incidents. They are acts of racism, intolerance and injustice and they are bringing to light a longstanding systemic problem that originates in a consciousness of fear and domination. The prevalence of this inhumanity towards the Black community and the reaction it is receiving from thinking people demonstrates to me that something new wants to be born and that means something old must be released. Let us in the Centers for Spiritual Living do our spiritual duty to take spiritual action. Let us pray for all involved in this tragedy.
Let us pray for our society and its leaders. Let us also speak out on behalf of common sense, justice, equality, and peace. Let us see and trust that something powerful and necessary is working its way into expression, that Spirit is in the mix and that there will come a time when acts like this will no longer take place. Let us cease the celebration of killing, anytime or anyplace. Let us turn away from violence wherever it shows up in so-called “entertainment.” Let us take the lead in bringing about a society that fully embraces diversity and connection - so that the manifestation of love and peace is guaranteed. Let us step forward into the vanguard of truly creating a world that works for everyone – a world where peace prevails. And TODAY call an AME church, offer your condolences, and ask when they are praying and what they need.
Image thanks to 123rf photo/ Valerie Barry