A Note on the AME Shooting, Racial Wounds, and Emotion

I woke this morning with a rock in my stomach. I groggily reached for my computer at my bedside, and opened it up to check my e-mail and my Facebook. More news about the mass murder terrorist attack at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston abounded my news feed. I was thankful that at least this was still news. At least it wasn’t being swept under the rug like other mass shootings have been. Scrolling through my feed, however, I felt the rock in my stomach sink deeper. I realized then that the rock was a product of this shooting so close to home. It was a product of the racial injustice, extreme violence, and twisted news coverage that have grown apparent from the “#CharlestonShooting.”

One of the first links I clicked on this morning was a clip of last night’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He describes the “abyss” of our nation as “a gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist.” To this I say, yes. There are probably a hundred different reasons why the deaths of these nine innocent beloved people is affecting me so deeply, and most likely it is that these hundred reasons have all collided to form a particularly mournful, sorrowful day in my soul. Regardless, I feel the grief of these families and of Emmanuel AME’s congregation so heavy on my heart that I cannot remain silent.

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This morning I felt so emotionally charged that I drafted a scattered post with far too many expletives. I felt angry and frustrated because this clip of Jon Stewart to which I was greatly applauding and fervently nodding my head at was not the only link being shared on my news feed this morning. There were also posts being shared about the vigils and memorials in Charleston. “Hey Ferguson. Hey Baltimore. This is South Carolina. This is how we do it. We are family. No riots. No looting. Nobody acting like animals. What do you see here? Multi-racial. Multi-ethnic. All colors. All races. Banding together to defeat evil,” the posts read. While I wholeheartedly believe in non-violence and am thankful that Charleston and my state have not reacted with hate in the face of hate, I do have a problem with these posts.

I take issue because for one, we should not be comparing the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charleston to the various events in Ferguson and Baltimore. While they are all demonstrations of racial injustice in America, they are separate entities. Secondly, do not belittle the riots of Ferguson and Baltimore. Do not continue to ignore the fuel that enflamed that fire. Try to understand the hundreds of years of oppression which led to the anger and pain and grief that motivated those riots. I may not believe violence and anger can solve the issue, but I do understand why these emotions are there and that they are completely valid. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” And thirdly, I take issue with these posts because too many of those “banding together to defeat evil” continue to refuse to acknowledge this as the AME Shooting rather than the Charleston Shooting. Let us not white-wash this anti-Black racist violence. This was not an attack on a city, but it was an attack on a race and of “Mother AME.” As the hours go on, however, and more and more vigils and memorials occur throughout Charleston, I am warmed by the love that is radiating for the nine victims of this heinous hate crime. I just hope we can all remember the racial significance of this attack. 

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Tears are what first broke my silence. Sitting in my dad’s car, the anger and frustration and pain flew to my tear ducts and came pouring out as I sat there in a new silence, not quite able to explain my emotions. My emotions, like always, are complex. My tears today do not come from one specific source but rather an array of dominos falling down onto each other. They are not to be shamed, however. My tears are not weak. They are strong. They are tears of a white ally heartbroken by the state of racial affairs. I fight back the urge to run to find some secret time traveling device to take me back to a space where I can discuss the AME shooting with my TBB peers. I want more than anything to question and feel and act together with them, and I long to stand in the sun of our radical commitment to love and empathy. But this cannot be, so instead I hold on to the moments of love and empathy I remember to move me forward.

I have not carved out the time to write the posts I have wanted to write, to explain the true concept of what The Lioness & the Wild Wolf is all about. But let me assure you that when I talk about social justice through a lens of love, I am talking about what must occur if justice is ever to be served for the massacre of not only the nine innocent lives taken in at Emmanuel AME but also for the millions of black lives that have died at the hand of anti-Black racism and white supremacy. White silence is white compliance. It is raining now, a fierce summer storm has rolled out in the middle of the sweltering heat. May these raindrops bring in a flood of change to the hot racial wound we all need to acknowledge. Learn how to be an ally and move forward with me. It is time for a change. We can hear it in the gun shots, in the grieving tears, in the echoing screams. Racism is far from over, and if you think you can ache for the victims of the AME shooting and then precede to live a life of white compliance after “#CharlestonShooting” is gone from Facebook’s trending list, you are on the wrong side of history. This kind of social change takes all of us. This takes true social justice through a lens of love.