My heart weeps for the congregants of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. My heart aches for nine lives snuffed from this earth because of hate and violence. Thinking about their families and loved ones, my heart sinks in my chest, draining my body of energy. The feeling sends me into a state of stunned prayer, pleading for wisdom, reflecting on this tragic waste of human lives.
The sadness in my heart for the murderer becomes an ocean as I imagine the millions of other young men filled with similar bigotry. My chest overflows with sorrow thinking about the people in his life who might have redirected his anger, who might have taught him love and understanding.
My heart reaches out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We share the pain of loss, the futility of helplessness. We cry for the future, knowing that more innocents will die before we live the message of the great prophets — love your neighbor as yourself; judge not lest you be judged.
My heart breaks. But my mind rages, seething against the inhumanity, and the senseless social paradigms that nurture such acts. In my mind, I know that the only difference between Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and me is the color of our skin. Both men of faith, both preachers of the Beloved Community. Now he and eight of his parishioners lie dead, murdered by evil that I cannot possibly comprehend.
My brain screams at the stupidity and selfishness of a mindset that takes lives of those who are different. I look for a cause, for someone to blame. But I need look no farther than my own mirror — at the reflection of a white face in a society that privileges whiteness. I benefit from the privilege of my whiteness whether I want to or not.
I do not live in fear of a gun-toting bigot walking into my Fellowship and opening fire. I do not worry that someone “standing their ground” will exercise their Second Amendment rights to my detriment. I do not worry when my children go out to play that they will be executed by police seeing them as a lethal threat.
No, my brain works unburdened by concerns that white lives don’t matter. I spend no valuable thoughts worried that I will be fired or evicted because of who I love. I walk the streets carefree that wolves view me as meat to be abused and violated.
My mind broils, however, when people spew their vile prejudice against others. When the murderer in South Carolina is labeled a “lone gunman” and not a “thug,” I rage at the need for us to continue the call that #BlackLivesMatter. When Rep. Gary Glenn foams at the mouth about homosexuality, spreading his viral ignorance about sexual orientation and gender identity, I struggle to find compassionate words of response. And when another woman is raped or abused by a partner, I wonder whether we deserve Father’s Day at all.
So, pray with your heart. Mourn for the victims, ask for guidance, and seek peace. Use your mind, though, to challenge the injustice. Tell the racists that their violence is unacceptable. Tell Gary Glenn that his comments about gay and transgender people are disgusting. And on this Father’s Day, honor your wives and daughters, sisters and mothers; for without the women in our lives, we could not be fathers.