President Obama: “Hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals”

The President:

There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.

Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America. […]

… just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama … Dr. King said … “we must be concerned not merely with who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

Transcript: Statement by the President on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.

Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.

Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.

Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.

The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.

But let’s be clear: 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. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.

The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.

He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.

“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”

Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit. Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need. They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.

Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.

Thank you.

END
12:28 P.M. EDT

~

Remembering the Charleston church shooting victims
Tweeted by Wesley Lowery (‏@WesleyLowery) in 9 tweets …

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 years old, son teased that she went to church too much

DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49 years old, had a powerful voice, an alto belt that could fill a church

Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old, a librarian with a “fierce shoe game.”

Susie Jackson, 87 years old, was in Ohio visiting her grandkids just two weeks ago

Ethel Lance, 70 years old, a constant presence at Emanuel AME who showed up on weekdays to clean the church grounds

Clementa C. Pinckney, 41 years old, a shepherd who died doing what he did every Wednesday night – leading his flock

Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old, an HBCU grad and barber who had posted to Snapchat from Bible study moments before

Daniel Simmons, 74 years old, a retired pastor himself. He fought – initially surviving, but dying in the hospital

Myra Thompson, 59 years old, a minister’s wife and a proud Delta Sigma Theta

  8 comments for “President Obama: “Hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals”

  1. JanF
    June 19, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Statement from Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden:

    Hate has once again been let loose in an American community. And the senseless actions of a coward have once again cut short so many lives with so much promise. Our hearts ache with sorrow with the entire Emanuel AME Church family as they seek solace and comfort in the shadow of a gunman’s act of pure evil and hatred. Our love and prayers are with them.

    We last saw Reverend Clementa Pinckney less than a year ago at a prayer breakfast in Columbia. He was a good man, a man of faith, a man of service who carried forward Mother Emanuel’s legacy as a sacred place promoting freedom, equality, and justice for all. We pray for him and his sister as we do for the seven other innocent souls who entered that storied church for their weekly Bible study seeking nothing more than humble guidance for the full lives ahead of them.

    We have no doubt the coward who committed this heinous act will be brought to justice. But as a nation we must confront the ravages of gun violence and the stain of hatred that continues to be visited on our streets, in our schools, in our houses of worship, and in our communities.

    As Mayor Riley made clear, all of Charleston’s heart bleeds today—but the overwhelming display of unity will bring forth the city’s healing. We will never forget those innocent souls who lost their lives. We will be there with all the strength and support and prayers we can offer to the families who now grieve. And as a nation we will come together.

    • Denise Velez
      June 19, 2015 at 8:31 am

      POTUS and VP Biden are already catching hell for their remarks – which was predictable.

      How dare they talk about guns and racial hatred.

      Sigh.

      I feel like going back to bed.

      • JanF
        June 19, 2015 at 8:47 am

        That made me angry. Yes, let’s just say that “they passed away” and not mention that they were slaughtered because too many of our politicians support an ideology that loves guns more than humans; people who would sacrifice our children and our future leaders and our country’s reputation on the altar of purity towards a misreading of part of our constitution and the corporate lobby that thrives off of it. The president:

        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. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

        I don’t have his confidence that we can ever shift enough to fix this. It has to come from NRA members saying “enough” and taking away the fig leaf they have given to an organization that promotes gun violence. And if the sight of 20 school children gunned down in Connecticut … and the face ripped off a 6-year old boy … did not move them, then a story about 9 black people killed in a church is not going to touch them.

  2. JanF
    June 19, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Jon Stewart on Charleston Shooting: ‘This Is a Terrorist Attack’

    “This is a terrorist attack,” he said. “Al Qaeda, ISIS, they’re not sh-t compared to the damage we can do to ourselves on a regular basis.”

    “What blows my mind is the disparity of response,” Stewart added, visibly frustrated. “When we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves…We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and (lost) thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over like five or six different counties, all to keep Americans safe. We’ve got to do whatever we can—we’ll torture people. We’ve got to do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. (But) nine people shot in a church, ‘Hey, what are you going go to do?’…that’s the part I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around.”

    • Denise Velez
      June 19, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Good for Jon Stewart – he got it right.

  3. JanF
    June 19, 2015 at 11:34 am

    PBS on Rev. Pinckney: Slain Rev. Clementa Pinckney from PBS documentary ‘The African Americans’ (h/t Gwen Ifill on Twitter):


    In the 2012 documentary, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” Pinckney was asked why black political participation mattered.

    “We don’t have the privilege to say our vote doesn’t count,” Pinckney said, “because history tells us differently.”

    Watching this video, I am struck by the enormous loss. A powerful voice for good in our country’s political system has been silenced forever.

  4. JanF
    June 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    The president speaks later in the day in Los Angeles:

    “When I ran in 2008, I in fact did not say I would fix it. I said we could fix it,” Obama told an audience of about 250 at a fundraising event here at the stately hillside home of film mogul Tyler Perry. “I didn’t say, ‘Yes, I can.’ I said, ‘Yes, we can.'”

    The president continued: “If you’re dissatisfied that every few months we have a mass shooting in this country killing innocent people, then I need you to mobilize and organize a constituency that says this is not normal and we are going to change it.

    He added that “incentives are built into the system that reward the short term, reward a polarized politics, reward being simplistic instead of being true, reward division.

  5. JanF
    June 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

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