In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel church in Charleston, I find myself feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and mostly, hopelessness about how to move forward. Perhaps my deepest concern is that nothing will change--that we will feel sadness, and then, we will move on with no societal response, and no movement toward change. As we did with Newtown. As we did with Columbine. Of course, we will not all move forward in the same way. For people of color, the reminder that even a religious building is not a safe sanctuary will have lasting and potentially devastating effects.
As Jon Stewart shared:
"I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jackshit. Yeah. That’s us."
The night these attacks were happening, I was with a group of my colleagues talking about what sustains us in our work. I shared my optimism, my belief that even if the steps are small, there are small steps moving us forward. This focus on small change is what helped me as a direct service provider, working with people who faced so many structural and societal challenges to recovery. A focus on looking for the slivers of light, of joy, of humanity.
But I’m having a really hard time with this today, in the wake of Charleston.
Where are the slivers of light in the domestic racial terrorism that is occurring daily?
Charlie Pierce in his Esquire piece:
“What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is unspeakable. We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly. We should speak of it as terrorism, which is what it was. We should speak of it as racial violence, which is what it was.”
We need to engage, to reach out to each other and TALK about what is happening. For some of us, grief and loss will be the starting point. For others, it will be outrage and anger. We need to go through our own process. But I have a request.
I’m asking you, as part of the community of people who are joined by a deeply held mission of forwarding and fighting for social justice and equality, to share where you see the slivers of light.
We all know about the vital importance of strengths-based work in our healthcare systems. We need it in our advocacy and social justice work, as well. We need to highlight where things are moving forward, while never turning a blind eye to the harsh and dire realities of oppression.
Can our contribution to this conversation, in part, be to give voice to the strengths? The steps forward? The slivers of light in the deep abyss of racial injustice and hatred? Always remembering, that we can’t speak about the slivers of light without speaking out about the racial injustice and acknowledging and holding the pain, grief, loss, anger, and outrage that this continued oppression engenders.
Will you join me in this conversation?