An Open Letter to Nikki Haley
Governor, South Carolina
The Charleston SC Massacre
21 June 2015
Dear Governor Haley:
This letter is written to express and share my thoughts about the recent mass slaughter of nine black people in the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston. As the world now knows, the villain is a young white supremacist male named Dylann Roof.
When you ushered forth the words, “This is not who we are,” during an early press conference, I shouted out loud to my television set, “Yes, governor, that is exactly who you are.”
South Carolina has an image and reputation for being extremely intolerant. South Carolina is seen as the State of Hate, along with some of your neighboring states. You are seen as the state that hates blacks, hates gays and lesbians; hates Jews; hates Latinos and any other species of human that is not white and Protestant.
Dylann Roof is exactly, precisely what represents South Carolina in the eyes of the wider world. Housing at least nineteen white separatist hate groups with members numbering perhaps in the thousands, South Carolina can hardly claim to be a place of tolerance and acceptance.
Add to those factors your racist-in-denial U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and his stated enthusiasm for the Confederate Flag and its “roots”. I would more than suggest that South Carolina has its intolerances and prejudices pretty well defined.
What confounds and angers those of us who claim and embrace the Christian faith is how South Carolinians believe themselves to be so “Christian”. Perhaps in word, but surely not in action. During my years in graduate study at seminary we were reminded routinely, “If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk.” But, for whatever reason the self-aggrandizing Southern “Christians” seem to believe they have a lock on God and Christ. Really! As the saying goes, “Talk is cheap.” Dylann Roof represents a quiet but not altogether silent voice of hate that threads itself through much of the South; not solely in South Carolina.
My first and last visit to Charleston was many, many years ago as I was discharged honorably from our United States Air Force. To suggest that Charleston is in competition with Savannah as the “”Jewel of the South” is a bold slap in the face to Savannah.
It is often stated that “perception is 95% of everything.” So, in order to change the perception one must change the image entirely. It appears, at least to the outsider, that South Carolina is perfectly happy to retain its image as a state that supports intolerance. Y’all just gotta get your hate on. How sad is that!
And, oh, one more thought. While I personally do not believe the Confederate flag to be a racist symbol, I understand how and why others do. But, unlike the larger population that re-mains under-educated and under-informed I took it upon myself to learn a bit more about the origin and history of the Confederate flag. Given how the Confederate flag is regarded as a hideous symbol that represents a heinous part of our nation’s history, I agree it should be retired to a museum. The fact the Confederate flag remained at full staff after the Charleston massacre simply validates what many have come to believe about South Carolina: You love to hate. No matter how you may try to sugarcoat that image, that is the image. Change the image, and the perception will change.