Leonard Pitts: “Where can we find sanctuary?”

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.



  1. There is no sanctuary in the modern Republican Party because the GOP benefits from racism and the dog whistles and symbols that call “their people” to the polls:

    The Republicans hesitancy on the [Confederate flag] issue is a missed opportunity to distance themselves from the ‘Southern Strategy,’ which then-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman apologized for in 2005. The Republican Party, according to Mehlman, historically tried to “benefit politically from racial polarization.” Lee Atwater, one of the architects of the strategy, explained how the strategy worked and could be adapted to the times.[…]

    The current controversy on the flag was an opportunity for the Republican field to put the nail in the coffin of the ‘Southern Strategy.’ They’ve taken a pass.

  2. Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

    … the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy …

    [Political scientist Larry Bartels in his paper ] showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

    And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 percent in the deep South. […]

    Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.

    And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.

    And here is that myth again:

    But that hasn’t happened yet. Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin.

  3. Charlie Pierce “Things We Shouldn’t Forgive”:

    Those of us who have been following for a while the Republican party’s sweet-tooth for seditionists, as expressed by its truckling to racists in the South and crackpots like Cliven Bundy in the west, are very familiar with the CCC. It is, in fact, the direct descendant of the White Citizens Councils, which were the respectable face of the Klan and other racial terrorists during the days of “massive resistance” to the Civil Rights movement. For decades, Republican politicians of varying importance saw nothing wrong with wallowing in the noxious leavings of American apartheid. You may recall that it was in front of a CCC audience that Trent Lott babbled his devotion to Strom Thurmond and lost his seat in the Senate. Lott was the minority leader of the United States Senate at the time.

    Already, we have people justifiably tracking how many “mainstream” Republicans have taken money from the CCC. (Not my new friend, Joni Ernst! Oh, noes.) I suspect that, in the next few days, we’re going to be seeing a lot of folks engaging in public moral burlesques of sending the money back. These will be almost as disgusting as having taken the money in the first place. Be prepared.

    It’s too goddamn late, and that is what I decline to forgive. There was a point at which the Republican party—and the conservative “movement” that is its only life force —could have turned from this path, but it declined to do so, and now the racial and political backlash against the civil rights movement is too deeply embedded in the conservative mind ever to be excised easily. […]

    I remain awestruck by the words of the people in Charleston. However, there are several words of which I wish to hear no more. “Inappropriate” is at the top of the list. There never has been a more appropriate time for a debate about how to confront the inexplicable tolerance among our politicians for the worst in our politics. It’s long past time, actually.

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