I am shocked, saddened, and angered by the heinous mass-murder at Mother Emanuel AME. This lovely and historic church sits in the very heart of downtown, next to the Charleston County Main Library, and directly across from the school where I attended elementary and middle school. I grew up a block from that church, and my parents still live in the neighborhood. It is a beautiful place, made full of joy and love by the people who worship there. Those people now grieve because some young man – and I use the term loosely – thought he had the right to take innocent lives.
I live in Charleston. Dylann Roof was not from here, nor does he represent our community. On the contrary, Charlestonians of all races, creeds and backgrounds stood together yesterday, both at a prayer vigil that filled a church and overflowed onto the street, and on social media, to say unanimously, NO! Racism and violence will NOT be accepted here.
It would be naive to suggest that this Aryan-Nation-wannabe grew out of a vacuum; sadly, bigotry and hate exist everywhere. But please do not fall into the media trap of believing that we, the people of Charleston, condone or support racism.
Although there was a great deal of concern (fed mostly by outsiders who have never been to Charleston) that the police and white residents would not seriously pursue this murderer, the exact opposite was true: local and Federal law enforcement aggressively pursued every lead, and it was a white woman in North Carolina who recognized Roof in his car, and alerted the FBI. Less than 24 hours after committing his heinous act, Roof was sitting in the Charleston jail.
Nobody can honestly say that racism doesn’t exist in South Carolina, or that Dylann Roof developed his worldview all by himself. And no white person can honestly say they know how a black person feels when a white supremacist commits mass murder in an AME church. But what we can say is that, when it was time to be counted, we stood as one in support of our friends and neighbors, and in condemnation of hatred.
Let the politicians and journalists spin the facts to support their own agendas. If Dylann Roof wanted to start a civil war, or spark some kind of wave of violence, he failed abysmally. He shattered lives and families, and for that he will be judged by both man and God … But what all of us – and what all of America – saw yesterday was that this act of murder did not drive us apart; it brought us together.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.