“My first thought was, not again”: The Charleston shooting

Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, YW Boston President & CEO

When I learned that a white gunman had opened fire on Wednesday night at a historic black church in Charleston, NC, killing nine black people before fleeing, my first thought was, not again. Not another attack on a black community’s place of worship. Not another mass shooting by a white man. With the death of State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, age 41, not another black leader taken from us far too soon. Not another tragedy in America’s continuing legacy of racism.

When are enough of us going to care enough – and be enraged enough – to take action? Not simply to shake our heads and offer our condolences, but to take effective action that leads to lasting change? I particularly call upon our white allies in this effort. While nearly all are joining in the outcry of rage about the attack in Charleston, too many white Americans still do not recognize that such hate crimes are only the visible tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the iceberg is the myriad of ways that our society of institutionalized and systematized racism disadvantages, harms, and even shortens the lifespan of people of color in America.

To prevent further tragedies like this, we need more people working harder to chip away at the foundation of that iceberg. More people need to find the courage to confront their own fears, biases and prejudices about racism and race privilege. More people need to demand and help enact the systemic change needed to bring about a society and culture where the color of one’s skin does not strongly affect one’s life journey.

Racism and its fatal consequences are not going to go away until enough of us do something. The time is now for us all to commit ourselves to put an end to, “Not again.”