Dear readers, please excuse this small break in your regularly scheduled triple-bottom-line programming.
Though we pound the sidewalk day-in and day-out making the business case for sustainability, the fact is that we at TriplePundit care quite a bit about themes like equality and justice outside the office, too. Sometimes we work to make the business case obvious in the hopes that equality and diversity in the workplace will make for a more equitable society — like in cases where we drive home the point that diversity makes for a stronger, more resilient, organization. Sometimes we stay silent while a tragedy like the Charleston Church shooting sweeps the nation, because we aren’t sure what to say or our how our voices will contribute to the conversation.
And sometimes, like when that inexcusable and simply unexplainable act of hatred and violence is followed by a series of arson attacks on black churches across the South, it becomes time to speak out whether or not it is strictly our place.
Arson as a means of racial violence is an intimidation practice almost 200 years old. The most recent fire comes at a church that was destroyed by an arson attack the KKK claimed in 1996. [Update: this fire was found to be caused by lightening.]
“This is a systematic attack against the black church,” the Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative, told USA Today. “We are on alert status.” The National Black Church Initiative is a coalition of 34,000 African-American churches, a group all-too-familiar with the ways racial violence and hatred spread.
I need to make this clear. What we have here is a country where over 100 unarmed black people were killed by the police in 2014. This is so unusual that the BBC even ran an inquiry to try to understand why U.S. police keep killing unarmed black men. This month, a hate-filled individual went to a Bible reading, sat and presumably prayed for an hour, and then executed nine people. The suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, was quite public about the fact that he intended to “start a race war,” and he has not shown any public remorse for his act. Now, seven churches across five states have caught ablaze. While not every fire can be definitively tied to arson, the numbers are too troubling for all seven churches to be coincidental or accidental fires.
Violence against black people. And then, in retaliation, more violence against black people.
I don’t stand for the more insidious and subtle forms of racism that impact our neighbors of color every day, and I certainly don’t stand for this. I’ve been silent too long, scared to say the wrong thing.
Tomorrow is Independence Day in America: the day we won freedom from colonial rule. We celebrate this day with fireworks, family, barbecues and parades. One day, perhaps, we’ll be free from racially-motivated violence too.
When you see your friends and family tomorrow, please do me a personal favor and mention the tragedies that have recently befallen the black community: the arson, the church massacre, the police shootings. Use whatever words make sense to you, and simply have a conversation. I know it’s bad form to talk about controversial subjects at family gatherings, but I hope we can all agree that standing against hate crimes is not exactly controversial.
Let’s not sweep this under the rug. Let’s show the black community that this tragic string of violent attacks is not their cross to bear alone.
I’d love to hear about your conversation! Tweet me @jenboynton using hashtag #JustAChat, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how it went.