Saturday, June 20


I'm at the point where I feel like to be silent about the church shooting in Charleston this week, here at my online home, is not possible. I went back and forth - my blog is about color and style, right? I couldn't quite wrap my brain around how to fit the raw emotions I was feeling in alongside weddings and parties and fashion. Wouldn't writing about something so tragic and heartbreaking go against the tone I've worked so hard to set?

But here's the thing: I have to be real, here of all places. I have to process this and the way I process is by talking. So when I saw the image above, of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, a bridge my own uncle helped build, I knew I had to create a space here for my heartbreak.

My heart breaks because I expected this to be a case of mental illness gone unchecked, because that's the narrative we are used to, but it's a case of depravity and hatred. On television this morning, I heard the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Hailey, say, "there is one person to blame here." There's not. There's a culture to blame. Young people don't grow up believing people who look different are somehow "less than" on their own. Hate is learned behavior. It would be easier if hate always wore a jacket covered with identifying patches, but it doesn't. It sits beside us on the bus, in the classroom, and in church. The culture of racism is insidious and it's a current that runs underneath life in the South so subtly that it's almost forgotten, that it's written off as a joke made when someone has had a little too much to drink or "the way he was raised." From Jon Stewart's monologue yesterday: "The confederate flag flies over South Carolina. And the roads are named for confederate generals. And the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him."

My heart breaks because in our churches, our schools, our homes, the streets of our country, we should feel safe. Our elders should be safe. Our children. Ourselves. In his speech delivered in a press room named for a victim of gun violence, President Obama said that "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."

I can't help but think of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, an event I've taught about in my classroom but, until now, never really understood. How much uglier death is when it violates a place of worship, a sanctuary. Emanuel, God with us. The grace that the victim's families have shown has been amazing. 

Charleston is important to my family - it's where my dad's brother made his home and raised his family. It's where my husband and I have been planning to take our summer vacation and I've been gradually falling in love via photographs and history. One of the victims, Sharonda Singleton, worked and coached at the school where my cousin works, and was known for her positive attitude and encouraging smile. We are all connected. We are all brothers. How have we lost that thread?

Tomorrow, Charleston communities will come together at dusk to walk from both sides of the Ravenel Bridge and stand together hand in hand. I wish I could be there to stand and pray with them.

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