On September 15, 1963 four black schoolgirls were killed when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed. On June 17 2015 six women and three men were shot and killed when a 21 year old white man joined a bible study group at a church in Charleston and then opened fire.
52 years separate these events.
They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.
52 years and with all that has changed one fact remains the same. No matter how much time has passed; only when you make someone an “other”, when you make them less than you, when you sub-humanize and dehumanize people… only when you do these things can you cause harm to them.
By the same logic: once you see someone as another like yourself, see them as equal to yourself, see their inherent value as a fellow human as within yourself… once those veils are lifted, they cannot be reattached and you cannot cause harm to them.
The moment we take the time to genuinely engage people, we are struck by their humanity. They also worry about their kids eating right, they also work their tails off and wish they had more, they also have felt every single emotion that you have felt. If you tickle them… they laugh too.
Martin Luther King Jr in his eulogy for the four little girls killed in Alabama said,
“…they have something to say to us in their death. …They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.”
Our country seems more divided than ever. What can we do?
We can start engaging the “others” in our world. Peel back those thin veils which we believe make us each so very different from each other. Look into the faces of those we have made “other” in our world: Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Gay, Transgender, Punk, Young, Old, Black, Hispanic, White, Women, Men, and many more.
And after we have looked into these faces behind the veils we have given them, we find our own faces staring right back at us.