Emanuel AME(African Methodist Episcopal) church has a long history of notoriety. Serving as the oldest AME church in the south it hosted great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962, and has had a long and proud history within the community. Most recently, “Mother Emanuel” is in the news for a much more devastating reason, it is home of a shooting on Wednesday evening that left nine dead, including Democratic State Senator Pinckney. This is a devastating loss to the families, the community, and to an ongoing societal “norm” that has gripped the nation.
Labeled as a hate crime, as law enforcement believe that the shooter opened fire due to a prejudice stance on Black Americans, this shooting is another instance of the dangers of current racial tensions. Systematically, we want to compartmentalize instances into separate categories, however, this is a symptom of a much larger issue. I cannot comment on the shooter, nor the motive and I will not group it as a mental health issue giving momentum to the unfair stigma of those with mental health diagnosis. Nor will I consider arguments on accessibility of firearms. Instead I will point out that once again we have lost multiple lives due a belief system that is fostered by current social and economic issues.
Racial prejudices, violent gun crime, and continued “us vs. them” beliefs are driving a wider wedge into a society that is already teetering on the edges of change. As we tell our clients in therapy: A setback does not undo all the work we’ve done, it must not cause us to throw everything away and slide into destruction. We will be judged, not by these incidents of sorrow, but by our ability to take action and overcome. Our choice is to which side we fall. Do we stand by while madness consumes us and deem it part of an ongoing issue? Or do we realize that change will only occur if we have the courage to make a stand. If we refuse, only then will we be at a point of no return, only then will we have failed.
My heart is with the families. My eyes look to the future.
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