Prayer vigil should be catalyst for connection

As a part of my job at the Victoria Advocate, I am on the editorial board, where I, among others, write bimonthly editorials which become the voice of the paper. This editorial originally appeared in the July 1, 2015 edition of the Victoria Advocate. Photo found here.

Earlier this month, Dylann Roof’s heinous and despicable act of racist violence took the lives of nine innocent people inside an historically black church on June 17, shaking the foundation of many in the country. Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, reportedly committed this hate crime out of his belief that “black people are taking over the world” and needed to be stopped.

Since the shooting, other evidence of Roof’s racism has surfaced – Facebook photos of him wearing flag patches of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa and decorating his car with Confederate States of America license plate tags; his manifesto where he says he chose Charleston as his target because it once “had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country.”

In an America that is 150 years removed from the Civil War and 60 years removed from the Civil Rights movement, we are still grappling with issues of race and hatred. One only needs to look at the Charleston shooting and the recent Confederate flag controversy to realize that certain ideas about race and heritage die hard. And sadly, while this shooting was horrific, more than likely it will probably happen in the future.

Last Tuesday, several Victorians met in DeLeon Plaza to participate in a prayer vigil for the victims of the Charleston, S.C. church shooting. Prayers of lament were said. Songs of hope were sung. Everyone left with a resolution to do better. To donate money. To talk about this event with their families.

While the participation in this prayer vigil is to be commended, it is not enough. Prayer and donations and conversation are all well and good, but they are not enough. Every time an event like this occurs, there is a call for a “national conversation” about race that goes away after the news cycle expires. We must be better than that.

The popular train of thought these days is that by simply avoiding any conversations about race, we have therefore conquered racism. This could not be farther from the truth. Charleston (and Baltimore and Ferguson) must be talked about and discussed, on both sides, for good or bad. That’s the only way we will be able to grow.

So yes, go to prayer vigils. Please donate money to the victims’ families. But most of all, we cannot forget the action that caused us to pray and donate in the first place. And then we have to do something about it. Talk to a neighbor of a different race. Try to see the world from their perspective. Learn from those different perspectives.

If we don’t learn from each other, we’ll never grow.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.


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