I think about Dylann Roof, the 21 year old Charleston shooting suspect of Wednesday’s church massacre who took the lives of nine people. Why did this young man harbor so much hate? Who or what could have softened his heart? I know that the people who were victimized by this hate crime need our attention. But it is not their responsibility to turn the tides of racism and hate in our country. If we are to change things, we need to look at the predator. How did he come to this point in his young life? What traumas went untreated? What wounds were allowed to fester?
At the Center for Social Innovation (C4) and at t3, we provide trauma-informed care. In this work, we promote understanding not only of the victims, but of the perpetrators. We need to help children and adults connect with others and to commit to a positive, meaningful life. It is hard to understand what happens to a person so young that he can give himself permission to kill others. Was his heart overwhelmed by neglect, trauma, victimization, and hate? Can we help young children connect with and value the humanity of others? For some we have failed as reflected by the massacre in Charleston. This was a very sad day for all of us.
The hope is that we find ways to take even small steps to change the heart of people we encounter – seeing all people as “we” and not “them.” We have to learn how to help people who feel so isolated, entitled, and full of rage. We have to help them connect to the people around them as real people with feelings and experiences just like them, and not as targets or scapegoats. We have to learn how to transform our own rage, victimization, and hate into understanding how this young man lost his connection with his humanity and his soul. Only then can we change things.
This photo was taken by C4 staff member, Laura Winn, on June 19th at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill, NC during a prayer vigil for the individuals effected by the June 17th shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.