Saturday, May 18, 2024

Comentarios from Maria: Charleston and the Symbols of Violence and Hate


It is with much sorrow that I write this week, after the horrific massacre in South Carolina that claimed the lives of nine members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. Although the attacks that occurred in Charleston some days ago have become too common in our country, the frequency of these tragedies does not dispel the anguish and outrage we feel. In this case, our pain and sadness have only been deepened by the racism and hate that instigated the massacre. The nine people who lost their lives while they prayed in this historic African American church were not killed randomly but because of the color of their skin, a fact that serves as a strong reminder that racism continues to be an insidious and dangerous force in our society.

For many, it is very difficult to confront reality, and tragedies like this always lead us to discuss the issue. As citizens and human beings, we have an obligation to not remain silent in the face of this type of violence. However, in the days after the attack, the majority of Republican presidential candidates hesitated too much to arrive at a coherent response to the massacre, and at first many refused to even recognize that it was motivated by racism. Soon after, photos of the killer were published in which he stood posing with the Confederate flag. This symbol of division, hate and intolerance still flies from the staffs at the South Carolina capitol building. Yet again, the Republican leaders found excuses to evade the truth that this flag should have been removed some 150 years ago. I applaud Mitt Romney, ex-Republican presidential nominee, who took the leadership to be the first Republican to urge that the flag come down from the South Carolina capitol. Then, Republican Governor Nikki Haley had the courage that many in her party were not able to demonstrate and called for the immediate removal of the flag. Then we saw the Republican candidates join in the motion.

The Republican response to this tragedy is indicative enough of the big problem the party has with minorities in this country. Not by chance, we can see how a candidate like Donald Trump, who dares to openly insult immigrants and calling them criminals and rapists, has galvanized the GOP’s extremist base. And so far, not one Republican candidate, especially Jeb Bush – who claims to be a great advocate for Latinos – has expressed even a sentence of condemnation to such insults.

Unlike the Republicans, Hillary Clinton and President Obama have demonstrated their understanding of the challenges of racism and intolerance that still exist in our country, and for years have said that the Confederate flag should be taken down from public property. The two understand that our battle against racism and intolerance does not end with a symbol. A leader with experience and maturity understands that it is not only necessary to confront but to substantially reform a system of institutionalized racism that with its powerful tools hinders the aspirations and growth of communities like ours.

As our nation begins to heal, let us remember that we have a leader like Hillary Clinton will always fight on our side in causes that lead us to justice and equality.

This article originally appeared in Spanish in the Washington Hispanic.