Yesterday, I lost my soul, swept away in a deluge of news reports that a hail of bullets pierced the bodies of people praying in South Carolina.
I watched it wash away through a river of tears, cast adrift of news reports that a white man took it upon himself to play the Angel of Death in the House of God.
Yesterday, I experienced my heart breaking as the all-too familiar sounds ensued. I heard the wounded wails of crying as Black people across the country tried again to make sense of the senseless violence that took the most innocent of us, yet again, made martyrs in a war they never asked to fight.
A little girl survived because she knew to play dead. A woman was left breathing to bear witness to his acts.
"You rape women," said the gunman. "You’re taking over our country." His words rang in every Black person’s ears across our land, tearing another rip in our sanity as we try to understand why the laws of our country seem to apply to everyone but us.
Some implored us to remain calm, other screamed out for justice.
Yesterday, I watched in horror as the assailant was caught, a smirking white man who walked calmly to a car in shackles. I thought about all the black people accused of lesser crimes ripped to the ground, choked in headlocks, spines allegedly snapped in apprehension, shot under suspicion of being lethal by means of the color of their skin.
I shuddered with fear and anger as the news media covered the unfolding details with whimpering outrage. One news program put quotation marks around everything, pundits shouted over gun laws and education. Mental illness was thrown into the mix to excuse his actions. Maybe it’s not what we think it is. Maybe, the news media seems to be shrugging, it just doesn’t matter.
But it does matter. Yesterday, I cried. I tried to work through silent tears, the way I do every time one of us is struck down. Did I know them? I didn’t have to know them personally; I know them on every level of my cellular being. I know that grandmother who goes to bible study regularly, seeking a higher connection to her Lord Jesus Christ. I know that gentle man of honor, the pastor, leading his community through spit, hostile stares and the indignities places upon a man by the born color of his skin.
We rise every day as Black Americans, we do everything we can to abate the slanders thrown against us every day. We know you think we’re all lazy, that we’re all violent…that we’re all trying to do you harm. We work, we contribute to society, we try to rise above all that. We suffer the lack of understanding, the cultural appropriation, the lack of economic opportunity, the silently understood terror that emanates from the pores of people who think we mean to do them harm.
We go to church, we get down on our knees to ask for the strength to go through another day…
And we’re murdered for being Black.
Yesterday, I cried. And I cried some more. I called my family to tell them I love them. None of us are promised tomorrow. Where is it safe to be Black now? Where can we go where no one will hunt us?
There is no blending, there is no passing, there is no one left to hide anywhere: we are all guilty of the crimes you see in the media and nothing else, nothing we do or say will reverse this verdict upon us.
"Be strong," Mom said. "You can’t be afraid to live your life. You can’t let them win."
And I won’t. Although the Confederate flag flies high over South Carolina while the others are at half-mast, I am proud and upright and dedicated to the cause. Like every single one of us who got up this morning, Living While Black, I am here.
I booted and suited and I moved on with my life. I reached out to friends of all hues through the night, all of us wondering what we can do. Because while those doors opened to that man who said he came to pray but really to prey, and another woman who masqueraded as Black to rise to prominence in the NAACP, they may begin to close permanently. We cannot let those bonds be broken entirely. We cannot allow terrorism on US soil to go unanswered. Please hear me: we cannot let this scar tissue on the souls of Black Americans to get thicker.
We must come together to abate this concern. We must gather together and learn to live in harmony, or we will all perish asunder in a flame of hatred that will scorch the earth. Our children learn hatred, they are not born with racism. We must teach both young and old that our lives have worth. We must seek only those who mean to do harm ON BOTH SIDES and have them answer for their crimes.
But ethnic cleansing is happening everywhere now. What was over there is now here. We’ve gone to war with nations over less offensive. Where are the drones over pockets of racial hatred in America? Where are the troop deployments for the children who live in fear of being shot or beaten while playing in our streets?
Today, I come to you with a plea. Tomorrow, it will be stronger, and the day after that it will be even louder. We must not let racial strife continue in the US. We cannot continue to treat less than 17% of the total population with the fear that they’re taking over the country along with the disdain that their beating hearts are worth nothing. We must rise to value education over financial profit, we must rebuild, gather hands…come together.
Please listen. South Carolina is so much more important than you think.