Last Thursday morning, I broke from my usual morning routine of cereal and Facebook surfing on my phone. Instead, I watched something mindless and fun on the television while I ate my massive bowl of Chex. Then there was Kiddo to get ready and feed, a bed to be made, medicine to be taken. It was after ten before I could sit down with my MacBook for a little work. Pulling up Facebook for a quick scroll before writing was like a punch to the gut as I read about the frightening events of the evening before. I scanned enough online articles to see what had happened, and then I closed out Facebook, praying for those touched by this massacre.
I'm certain you have a similar story. We read the articles that stated the same information over and over as if hoping that next piece would explain it, say that it was all mistake, that it never happened, that nine precious lives were not lost on that Wednesday night. We saw the flurry of stories identifying the suspected killer as the police searched frantically for him. We breathed a sigh of relief when he was found and arrested.
But unfortunately, in America it doesn't stop there. Unlike in other countries where the names of these soulless mass murderers aren't released, here our news outlets pump out information and background on the killers as if they were reality TV stars. Photos of the accused are plastered across papers, televisions, and computer and phone screens until is difficult to go anywhere without seeing their menacing glares. These sick, twisted individuals go from obscurity to infamy in a second, and we all share culpability for their fame every time we click on yet another article describing their childhood trauma or displaying their hate-filled online messages.
There are people in this country who worship hate, who live to spread it, and who idolize those who commit crimes in the name of that hatred. When our news media releases the names of these killers, they open the door to the sort of racist canonization that is already taking place for this latest white supremacist murderer.
I understand the temptation to click on these articles, to watch them on TV. In the face of such evil, it is natural to desire to understand how someone could become such a monster. But we aren't going to end racism by learning the intimate details of this current man's twisted history. There is no understanding that kind of evil disregard for human life. There is no explaining it. I pray that I never comprehend it.
There is nothing new that I can write about Wednesday evening's events and the centuries of racism that precede it. I write from a position of privilege, where it's easy to think of these events as exceptions or rarities. I can offer no unexplored perspective on how to end racism. Nothing I write will change South Carolina's ridiculously lax gun laws or the absurdity of flying a flag with a fraught racial history in our state capitol. But what I can do is refuse to contribute in any way to the recognizability of this newly-minted murderer. Nine people had their lives brutally taken from them last week, and I fear that a year from now, the only name that we will remember will be that of the killer.
Please join with me in making these nine names the ones we never forget.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Depayne Middleton Doctor
The Rev. Daniel Simmons