If you haven’t already heard about the tragic murders of nine people Wednesday night at the 150-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleson, SC, pick an American news service (well, nearly any American news service that isn’t using this as tactless, opportunistic, political scapegoating leverage against their imagined arch-nemeses that have zero to do with any of this) and go read up on what we know so far.
Once you’re up to speed and properly disturbed, have some ideas for what else you can do in response, including but not limited to:
* Pray. Followed by more praying. And then still more prayer. For the families of the victims. For their community. For your community. For those whose duty will be the trial and prosecution of the perpetrator. For the perpetrator as a malignant lost soul. For all of us as a country and as a lifeform.
* If you’re racist, maybe try not being racist for a while and see how it feels. Not-racism carries some fabulous perks, such as that invigorating feeling that, in this way if nothing else, you’re not a warped relic from an era that’s bygone for reasons.
* As a reading exercise, consider the words of an actual relic of another era: an 1861 speech by Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America. Skip the first several verbose paragraphs until you see the word “negro” start popping up a lot. See how many sentences you manage to take in before you can’t go on. Now consider, 154 years later, we have 21st-century American-born citizens who buy into lines of thought anywhere within the same area code as what Stephens held to be true. See which hits you first: deep sorrow, righteous outrage, or the worst migraine you’ll ever feel.
* Skip the comedy generalizations of all Southerners. I’ve seen a few folks quick to jump on that too-easy bandwagon. Until just now, all this year’s worst nationwide headlines about race-related death came from Yankee states. My wife and I will be traveling in the southern U.S. soon and I fully expect to meet countless examples of American citizens not prone to acts of evil like this.
* Instead of boosting the public profile of the racist murderer of nine by railing about him by name, read tributes about the nine victims, about the faith that moved them, and about the good works they performed here during their time in this broken world. You can check out the Washington Post‘s version, which includes interviews with bereaved family and friends telling the rest of us about those dear folks the rest of us never had the chance to know personally, or there’s the Buzzfeed version, which has fewer exclusive interviews but supplements that with some social-media screen-grabs that are a little less tacky than their normal fare.
* Donate. Major news services are reporting that Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., is in the process of spearheading a relief fund for affected parties. As of this writing the official fundraiser site isn’t live yet, but I’m linking to it anyway in case that changes soon. If it doesn’t, if you’d rather not wait for it, or if you’d prefer a more direct approach, Emanuel AME’s home page has a PayPal button. The money goes directly to them, no government intermediaries. Point, click, donate, help, do something.