For 30 years I have waged a sort of guerilla war against hatred in the name of interfaith harmony through the Charleston Congress of Religions in the 1980s and ’90s and Interfaith Partners of South Carolina in the new millennium. Battles for equal justice, equal education and equal economic opportunity have largely fallen on deaf ears.
At the vigil at Morris Brown AME Church, I watched local, state and national clergy make speeches crafted for photo ops and realized that I have wasted 30 years waging this war. No one gets it or will get it.
I realized that in a few days the colorful crowd holding hands at the vigil will return to their white or black places of worship, separate but equal under everyone’s eyes but God’s.
Hatred isn’t the work of a single deranged person. It is the work of centuries of inequity reinforced by family, society and government. Hatred is reinforced by a racial achievement gap in education of 15 to 23 percent. Hatred is reinforced by government, law enforcement and a judicial system that favors whites and disadvantages blacks.
Business reinforced hatred by running the black middle class into oblivion in the ’50s and ’60s when white merchants opened their doors to black dollars. Black wallets abandoned black businesses, but white wallets remained closed to black businesses.
A scene from the Broadway play “South Pacific” represents the situation in Charleston, the state and the nation. It says people aren’t born racist. They are taught to be racists.