One of the first songs I learned when I was young said this: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” In spite of growing up in the South, I wore a naïve blindfold to racial tension until the ending of my Senior year, when it was finally thrust off by the Baltimore incident. At my high school we never talked about racial conflicts. Students of different ethnicities attended class together as a close-knit family. Upon researching my family history, I discovered I had a Scotch-Irish Highland King in my bloodline, had Cherokee ancestors on the Trail of Tears, and am a 34th cousin to Queen Elizabeth (which doesn’t really count, or I’d be living in a manor in Stratford-Upon-Avon). Unfortunately, I also have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and who owned plantations; I am ashamed of this. People give the excuse that the South fought for more issues than slavery, but ultimately the biggest right they were fighting to keep was just that. I cannot change my ancestors’ views or actions, but I can be sure that when I am blessed with children, they will be reared just as my Mom has reared me: to appreciate all cultures, to accept everyone, and hopefully be accepted irregardless of race. When I heard about the shooting in Charleston, not too far from one of the colleges I had considered attending, I was sickened. Why would something like this occur? How could someone be so troubled that they would take the lives of innocent individuals in a place of worship? President Obama remarked about this: “There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.” I am unable to comprehend how someone’s heart could be so full of hatred, or how the healing process could even begin. The families of the victims are offering forgiveness to the perpetrator; it’s unfathomable and humanly impossible. He stole from them: he stole their fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and friends, yet they are forgiving him. This seems to be the most sincere testament of faith in action. Today, as I sat in church, I saw the touching sight of people from all backgrounds united in a special prayer for our country and for all involved in the horrific crime in Charleston, including the gunman and his family. They were praying for change in the United States, so that a tragedy like the one at the AME Episcopal Church will not occur again; so that the “dream” Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of will be able to come to fruition; so that all races will be considered equal in 21st century America; so that generational prejudice will not continue to serve as a catalyst for crime.
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”- Maya Angelou