Leonard Pitts, widely syndicated opinion writer for the Miami Herald, published an editorial yesterday: There is no sanctuary
He begins with the definition of “sanctuary”:
The main hall of a church is called a sanctuary.
It is where you go to worship, to seek fellowship and solace, and commune with your maker. The dictionary definition of the word adds an additional layer of resonance. A sanctuary is where you are sheltered and protected. A sanctuary is where you are safe.
Wednesday night, Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., was a church without a sanctuary. Wednesday night, Emanuel AME was a killing ground.
The killer, dishonoring sanctuary, shouted out his manifesto of hatred:
“I have to do it,” [confessed killer Dylann] Roof is quoted as saying. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
If there is reason to believe the Rev. Pinckney or any of his congregants guilty of raping anyone or plotting to overthrow the government, it has not yet come to light.
But of course, when Roof said “you,” he did not mean “you,” singular. Rather he meant, “you,” plural. “You” people. “You” all. Individuality is, after all, the first casualty of racism.
In a country that Pitts points out is in the grip of gun fetishism, he suggests that this crime is not surprising. And he goes on to talk about the myth that allows people who should know better to declare that our country is post-racial and challenges them:
Let them go to any of a hundred cities and talk to black people who are sick of hearing how America overcame, learned its lesson, reached the Promised Land, yet somehow, sister can’t get a loan, dad can’t find a job, brother has to factor stop-and-frisk encounters into his travel time to and from school, and Walter Scott gets shot in the back while running away. All for rapes they never committed and government takeovers they never planned.
Solange Knowles, sister of Beyonce, put it as follows Thursday in a tweet: “Was already weary. Was already heavy hearted. Was already tired. Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?”
Where, in other words, can we find just a moment to breathe free of this constant onus? Where can we find sanctuary?
It is up to white allies, people of goodwill, willing to own our part in what our country has become, to declare ourselves people who refuse to bury our heads in the sand, people who won’t just say “this has to stop” but will vow to MAKE IT STOP.
The promises of Abraham Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation (underscored by the sacrifices of those who died to preserve the union and end slavery) should not be left unfulfilled 150 years later, the promises of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Democratic Congresses of the early 1960s (passing into law the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act) should not be left unfulfilled over 50 years later. It is time we, all Americans, fulfilled those promises … and provide sanctuary.