Cynthia Hurd, 54
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Ethel Lance, 70
Susie Jackson, 87
DePayne Doctor, 49
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
I heard the details this morning. Nine church attendees shot down in cold blood by a racist murderer. In the airport lounge a number of people talked, and laughed and caught snippets of the reporting. An African American lady talked to no one, engrossed in the reporting.
We can call it what it is: a hate crime. If ever the definition fit anything, it fits this.
Ministers. Student. Volunteer. Coach. Parents. Grandmother. These are the people most like the majority of African Americans in the country. They are like the families I see at Walmart and Kroger. They were like the families I saw at the meeting I attended this week. Ordinary people. Not rioters, not looters, not thugs.
They are me.
Twenty-one year old Dylann Storm Roof is suspected of committing these terrible crimes after sitting in a prayer meeting at the church. Reports say he may have been there for as long as an hour. Eyewitnesses reported Roof said Blacks were “taking over our country” and “you have to go,” with “you” presumably referring to African Americans; most likely the ones he murdered.
Somewhere his mistrust turned to dislike, his dislike to hate, and his hate to murder. It’s no wonder the Bible warns that hatred is morally equivalent to murder (1 John 3:15).
Recent racial turmoil has proven difficult to gain a consensus response. Support and condemnation shifts from victim to perpetrator, often based on politics, race, the involvement of law enforcement or a combination. Thankfully we see and hear a near universal anguish for this church, and these families. Regrettably it takes reminders of church burnings and bombings in the middle of the last century to attain it. It should not be thus.
Some may be withholding words of sympathy that they might unleash venomous words when Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson arrive on the scene. This is, in my view, misguided. When White people begin to stand with Black people, Sharpton and Jackson will fade from the scene like a morning mist.
A creative few have proposed a “persecution of Christians” narrative. There is little evidence at this point the claim is accurate in this instance. Roof’s jacket was not adorned with “I Hate Jesus” or “Christians Suck” patches. Instead, his jacket was an outerwear memorial of bygone racist regimes. He’d become a walking monument to hatred of Black people. CNN is reporting that Roof was from Lexington, South Carolina, a full two hours from Charleston. If killing Christians was his goal there were plenty of believers bowing in Wednesday prayers closer to home.
Future days may further illuminate his thinking, and it will be as twisted as a french braid. I stand to be corrected, but I don’t expect to hear a Son of Sam-esque “the neighbor’s dog talked to me” storyline. Burning hatred does not require mental imbalance as an accelerant.
Let’s call this what it is at least at this point. A hate crime. A man filled with hate took the lives of nine Black Americans, who were also Christians. These are my brothers, and my sisters and I grieve.
May I also be as grievous if these had been nine Black folks at a gas station, a pool hall, or a street corner.
Or nine White ones.
We are Charleston.
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