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Letter: Charleston incident hits close to home

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Debra Simon, Flower Mound
Debra Simon, Flower Mound

The night of June 17th I could not sleep, I could only cry.  My heart was heavy and hurting. Another mass shooting in America, another tragic event in what seemed to be a never ending series of gut wrenching tragic events in our country.

As an African American woman who also has family in Charleston, South Carolina, the massacre of 9 black people was especially layered.

Most people cannot relate to the level of hate displayed by the gunman, the majority of people will never go nearly as far as he did murdering people in the middle of a Bible study. But most people can relate to the well placed racial joke, the old crazy uncle who says racist things at Thanksgiving, the stereotyping and the unexamined conditioned beliefs about black people. And it’s not just old out of touch people who will take their prejudice to the grave in a few years.  The alleged gunman was 21, a millennial the group that is supposed to be most enlightened about race and diversity.

I have an 18 year old and 21 year old. They deal with racial attitudes that one would think would have ended 50 years ago. (My son was told in high school several times, by different students that he was the whitest black person they had ever met. I still don’t know what that means).

Have racial attitudes gotten better? Certainly overt attitudes have changed some, but subtle attitudes remain. Spencer Piston, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University who found that “younger (under-30) whites are just as likely as older ones to view whites as more intelligent and harder working than African Americans.”  So there is work to be done among the young and old.

We must expose ourselves and our children to people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us. It’s easy to be complacent, to not challenge the joke, to not question the inner assumptions then move on from this unspeakable hate crime because it is too painful. But there is a group of Flower Mound residents who refuse to move on, who are determined to sit with and explore the pain and find authentic ways to be together.

Join us for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims of the Charleston shooting and as we stand for an end to racism and violence. Thursday, July, 2nd at 8:30 p.m. at Heritage Park, 600 Spinks Road, Flower Mound.

Debra Simon
Flower Mound, TX

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