There are no words that can adequately express how heartbreaking, devastating, and sad what happened in Charleston yesterday really is. Nine innocent people are dead. Nine innocent people who have moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Nine innocent people who were murdered by a racist, grown-up, white male simply because of the color of their skin. Nine innocent people who were murdered because racism, and gun culture, are institutionally endemic in our society.
As much as Fox News would like you to believe that gun control wouldn't have prevented this, or that racism doesn't exist because we live in a "post-racial society because we have a black president", they're not true. (Hours after the shooting occurred, Fox was already live with coverage lambasting President Obama for understandably mentioning that the conversation about gun control needs to happen. They referred to the shooter as a "troubled boy" who was specifically targeting Christians, even though the shooter specifically said he was doing it because he wanted to murder black people.) And though it would be easy to write a tomb about Fox News being a cancer in our society and the public discourse, because they are, this isn't about them. This is about us.
This is about how racism exists, and is allowed, in two ways: actively and passively.
Racism is active in the fact that the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism, slavery, hatred, and oppression, still flies high above the South Carolina Capitol.
It's active when police officers pull someone over because they're committing the crime of driving while black, or pull a gun on black teenagers for attending a pool party, or choke a black man to death for selling loosey cigarettes.
It's active when Tamir Rice was shot to death, and not given CPR, for holding a toy gun.
It's active in the fact that the Charleston shooter was taken into custody without a scratch on him, which is more than can be said if you're a black teenage girl at a pool party in Texas.
It's active in the fact that people of color make up 30% of the population in the US, but 60% of the prison population.
It's active when Richard Sherman is called a "thug" for raising his voice in an interview with Erin Andrews.
It's active in more ways than can be listed here, unless you want to be reading for the next 7 months.
Racism is passive when people say "I don't see color." Certainly, most mean well when they say that, but…really? To portend not to see color is to deny the differences in our cultures that make us unique, that make us diverse, that make us beautiful.
Racism is passive when news anchors use the phrase "the n word."
Racism is passive when the shooting in Charleston is talked about as an "act of violence by a mentally ill boy" and not, simply "a murder and hate crime by a racist, white man."
Racism is passive when we deny the fact that racism still exists.
Racism is passive when you and I choose to stay silent rather than speak up at injustices done to our friends, neighbors, or strangers of color (Black, Hispanic, Native, Asian, Middle Eastern), because there are a lot of egregious, hateful acts committed toward minorities every day. To pretend otherwise is to condone the actions.
This is about how the murder of innocent children, women, and men may not ever be fully stopped, but the prevalence can sure as hell be reduced.
How many Charlestons, Sandy Hooks, Columbines, or Auroras need to occur before we admit we have a gun culture epidemic in our society? How many black kids need to be killed in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Washington DC before we actually have a meaningful dialogue about gun control? How much money do we need to drain from the politicians who accept lobbying money from the NRA before we take concrete action to diminish tragic deaths from a weapon whose only purpose is violence?
Gun control opponents don't want a drastic overreach by the government into their personal liberties. I get it. (Hopefully they can empathize with women who want the same consideration from the government when it comes to personal control of their body). But this isn't about "taking away your guns." It's about minimizing the chances that hate-filled people with vendettas will get their hands on one and murder someone's child.
It's about common sense safety measures designed to prevent more unnecessary death in our country. Sort of like vehicle safety measures. Who would argue that speed limits, seat belts, air bags, traffic lights, and laws against drunk driving are bad things that infringe on our rights as a society? We still have thousands die on the road every month, but can you imagine how many more would if we didn't have those safety measures in place?
If you're opposed to gun control, I don't think you're a bad person. But I'd like you to take a little test to check on your level of compassion, empathy, and love. Here's a picture of the 20 children and 6 teachers murdered at Sandy Hook, and the 9 men and women murdered in Charleston:
Look for a few minutes. If it brings tears to your eyes, you're a caring human - just as I thought. Please understand that, if you don't believe in regulations to prevent someone from getting a gun and committing another atrocity like Sandy Hook or Charleston, then these innocent souls died in vain and, ultimately, you're OK with something like Sandy Hook or Charleston happening again.
We can't do anything about what happened in Charleston. But we can prevent another act of terrorism, hatred, and racism from happening again. It starts with us. It ends with us. It starts with being honest about the fact that racism exists and gun control does not. It ends with more innocent people dead, or with a society that acknowledges and embraces diversity and decides gun violence is an intolerable evil that must be vanquished.