On Charleston.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I’ve been here before: heartsick, nettled, hurt, with a tight ball scratching the middle of my throat as I shake my head and say that this cannot continue.

How can it keep going on like this? The breaking point, we passed that long ago. But here we are again, staring at this thing — this assault on Black Lives — fresh.




But for me, the words, they are not coming this time. They’ve been lost, or more likely trapped beneath unbearable grief, outrage and exasperation at being here at this horrible nexus once more. Others have managed to drag sentiment and emotion out from under the rubble of all this and push the right sentences together to express how they feel, how I feel. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for their important voices, letting me know that they’ve been crushed under the weight of it, too; that they are sick and tired of this warped paradigm and are desperately searching for new roads out of this deep, ugly pit into which we continue to sink.

People like Jon Stewart.

And people like:

Jamil Smith in The New Republic.

Anthea Butler in The Washington Post.

Charles P. Pierce in Esquire.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.

Updated to include:

Edwidge Danticat in The New Yorker

And this must-read piece by Claudia Rankine called “The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning”  in The New York Times Magazine. Rankine grabs all that’s weighing down my heart and spills it out across the page. For example, she writes:

“The truth, as I see it, is that if black men and women, black boys and girls, mattered, if we were seen as living, we would not be dying simply because whites don’t like us. Our deaths inside a system of racism existed before we were born. The legacy of black bodies as property and subsequently three-fifths human continues to pollute the white imagination. To inhabit our citizenry fully, we have to not only understand this, but also grasp it.”

I read Rankine’s piece standing at the kitchen counter, barely able to move, my skin soaking up each word.

New Yorker cover story "Charleston Nine"

(via The New Yorker)

These people (and many more) are helping me find my footing and focus again.

And while I’ve finally steadied myself enough to read about the nine victims killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on sites like BuzzFeed, I simply wasn’t prepared to watch this video of the victims’ families addressing the man who murdered their loved ones.

“You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.”

They forgave him, while the despair and unimaginable pain were still raw and clawing at them. They forgave him. They looked at this man covered in darkness and evil and they let their light shine on him. Hearing the emotion in the families’ voices… it crushed me all over again, just wrenched my soul.

I’ve been trying to take care of myself, my mind and spirit, by backing away from social media on this horrible massacre and instead hanging out with my son this week, the start of his summer break. We went to a baking workshop where kids can make cookies one day, and off to a feel-good movie about well, feelings, the next day. I’ve put my entire effort into being a light for him, and he has been — as always — a clear and clean source of joy for me.

Cookie for Calm | Ms. Mary Mack

But I’m still tired. I’m still sad and angry. I’m still at a loss for what to do next, for how to get out of the quicksand of hopelessness.

Then on Friday, a friend posted something on Facebook that felt like a firm, steady hand lifting me up out of the muck. She did some research on things that she can do to “honor the victims of the terror attack in Charleston, and any ongoing efforts to unite and educate the public on how we can actively fight against racism.”

Here are some of the resources that she gathered:

And I’d like to add one more thing, especially for those of you who have a platform — a blog, a social media following, or whatever — please speak up. Even if you feel like you don’t have the words or fear saying them in the “wrong” way, please push that aside and lift up your voice. Write a blog post. Say a few words of meaning in the comment/caption of your Instagram photo. Share an important or informative article with your social media circle.

Do not be lulled into this false idea that it’s someone else’ s fight.

Do not let your silence betray your heart.

You are needed. Your voice, your support, they are needed. This battle is ours, and it’s going to take everyone operating on love, compassion, truth, and justice to bring about any real and meaningful change. Because it must change. It must.