People across the United States and in other parts of the world are joined in grief, sorrow and despair over the brutal murders of worshippers at the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. We, at the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, extend our hearts and prayers to the families of the victims and to their communities that held them in such high esteem.
Once again, we are horrified by news of a gunman killing masses that we have seen far too often in our country over the last few years – from the Virginia Tech massacre to Sandy Hook Elementary to the Aurora theatre to the Wisconsin Sikh shooting, and more.
But this time, the rampage was sparked by the racism and hatred that have simmered, boiled and erupted in our nation for hundreds of years — leaving us wondering what we can do to end it. The natural tendency is to fall into despair, to give in to an “acceptance” that we cannot effect change; that lawmakers will resist any consideration of gun control measures; and that racial prejudice is baked into our society.
However, if we fail to keep hope and faith active in our lives, we will do a disservice to the men and women who died by the gunman’s hand at Emanuel AME. Their lives were full of purpose and commitment to social activism to make a better world. They deserve our commitment to honor their lives and goals.
The crime at Emanuel AME was horrific and we must grieve. But let us not fall so deeply into despair that we become immobile. Let us renew our efforts to press for sensible gun control measures that could keep guns out of the hands of avowed racists and members of hate groups, out of the hands of mentally disturbed individuals, out of the hands of those who would use guns to kill innocent people because of their differences, be that race, religion, politics, ethnicity or other.
Yes, we will mourn the loss of those killed in violence. And, to honor them, we will not stand by to let it happen again without doing something to try to stop it. Let us strengthen our resolve to build on the work of civil rights activists throughout the ages who gave their lives to erase violence, hatred and racism from our nation.
We need to take bold steps to ensure that our communities play a role in their own governance – to guide what happens to the next generations in the educational, criminal justice, housing, finance and health systems. We must work toward a time and place where everyone can enjoy the freedom and opportunity that represents the American dream … a time when America can lead the world in peace.