I cannot change the past, the way we
fought like cats fight water
the way I pushed you
grasping hands and spindly legs
away from me
now we sit together
bourbon balanced between older hands
and I still can’t apologize.
I don’t even have the right words for this, I’m pretty sure. But I’m going to give it a shot. Here goes.
In the wake of the shooting in Charleston two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure that anything could make me more sad. But the thing about racial violence is this: It never really lets up. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse or you couldn’t get any more sad or disheartened over the state of things, racial violence heaps on another serving of disgusting nonsensical hatred.
In the last ten days, 8 black churches have been burned in the Southern United States. The FBI is looking into arson as the cause of these fires. Two of the church fires have been blamed on falling branches and faulty wiring due to the turbulent weather that has been sweeping through the south this past week.
Honestly, I don’t know how you can look at what is going on here and see anything but retaliation. Any other month of almost any other year, I would be willing to see faulty wiring blamed as the cause for a fire in a church with a predominantly black congregation. But not this month. And not these churches.
Racists have a history of targeting black congregations as a place for violence. During the height of the civil rights movement, black churches were the main gathering places for large groups of African Americans. They served as meeting places and social settings as well as places of worship. More than that, before African Americans were granted the right to vote in elections, they were able to vote for officials in their churches. They were able to enact some kind of control over their personal political spheres without being overseen by the oppressive white majority.
The photo that I chose for my header image for this entry shows the Congress of Racial Equality and members of the All Souls Church marching in memory of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing victims on September 22, 1963. The bombing of that church occurred on the morning of Sunday, September 15th, 1963. Four members of the KKK planted sticks of dynamite beneath the front steps of the church. The explosion killed four children and wounded 22 other people.
In the 1990s, there was another spate of church burnings in the south.
The most recent racially motivated church burning on record occurred on the day that Obama was inaugurated as president.
Fifty-two years later, we are still dealing with this shit. And it’s not like it ever went away. It’s not even like the 60s were the first time a black church was ever targeted. Like the worship of the confederate flag, the burning of black churches emerged during the civil rights movement as a way to frighten black people back into what white supremacists considered to be “their place.”
Fifty-two years after the civil rights movement, I look at the news and see young women being manhandled by racist officers. I see a white man killing black people because he was rejected by black women. Churches being burned because, in the wake of a mass shooting in a church, the racist symbol that is the confederate flag finally came down from in front of courthouses and state buildings throughout the south.
I still can’t believe that the confederate flag was even flown for this long.
I am constantly baffled when I look at the news or talk to my friends and hear stories of racial violence and oppression. I keep hoping that things will get better. That the world will somehow wake up and say, in unison, “that’s enough.”
But I keep being disappointed. Sometimes it feels like the civil rights movement didn’t even happen. In a lot of ways, we are still living in 1950. The only difference is that racists today know not to use the N word.