in their names

{image is a photo of white ribbons tied to a wrought iron gate in Charleston}

And who is really guilty? Each of us. Each citizen who has not consciously attempted to bring about peaceful compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States […] every citizen who votes for the candidate with the bloody flag, every citizen and every school board member and school teacher and principal and businessman and judge and lawyer who has corrupted the minds of our youth; every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred, is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb.*


Cynthia Hurd

a mother figure and a confidant

a beautiful person

Susie Jackson

a loving, giving person with a great smile


Ethel Lee Lance

a wonderful mother and grandmother

full of joy

a strong woman who just tried to keep her family together

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

an angel

loving God, loving singing and loving her girls

a life dedicated to her faith

Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney

a man of character

a family man

a remarkable human being

Tywanza Sanders

one of the most genuine people you’d ever meet

a one-of-a-kind person with the biggest smile you’d ever see

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.

retired reverend

beloved father and grandpa

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

always had a smile on her face

loved everyone and always had a positive attitude about everything

Myra Thompson 

a person who loved the lord

Her every objective was to please him in all that she did


Those four little negro girls were human beings.*

A 21 year-old kid weened at the teat of his skin’s entitlement and seething in delusions of persecution brought a gun into their house – their sacred space of worship and love – and opened fire.

A mad, remorseful worried community asks, ‘Who did it? Who threw that bomb? Was it a Negro or a white?’ The answer should be, ‘We all did it.’*

They welcomed him in. Because that’s what love does. It opens the door to strangers.

They prayed with him for an hour.Because that’s what faith does. It welcomes all comers.

He said he “almost didn’t kill them,” because “they were so nice” to him.

But he did.

No matter how good they were to him, he spewed his misdirected anger and hate at them.

He shot and killed nine innocent people.

He said that he wanted to start a race war.

I want to say that I couldn’t care less what he wanted.

But that’s not true.

I care deeply.

I believe we all should.

Because we have a responsibility to Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson to ensure that he doesn’t get it.

The “who” is every little individual who talks about the “niggers” and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter. The “who” is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator. It is every senator and every representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back home aren’t really like they are. It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that timorously defend the law.*

And because as long as we continue to refuse to acknowledge the impact of insidious, ubiquitous, institutionalized racism, we are all complicit in the destruction it wreaks.

* Quotes are from Charles Morgan Jr.’s speech to the Birmingham Young Men’s Business Club on September 16th, 1963, the day after a bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young black children and intensifying the struggle for civil rights in the South.

3 thoughts on “in their names

  1. The fact that quotes from a 1963 civil rights speech are so applicable still today is just, sad. Sad isn’t strong enough a word, but I don’t know what is.

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