National

Leaders Urge Patience In Achieving Change After Emanuel Nine

Dot Scott
Dot Scott

by Barney Blakeney
Special to the NNPA from The Charleston Chronicle

It’s been some three weeks since nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church were gunned down at a Bible study session in the church. After the shootings the community and nation displayed an unprecedented outpouring of compassion for he victims and survivors as well as outrage at the racism that prompted the atrocity.

Since the shootings the state and nation has bonded to remove the Confederate Flag as a political and social symbol of the racist hatred made evident by the atrocity. And now after Emanuel’s dead has been buried, local civil rights leaders say the substance of the racism and hatred the flag represents will take more time and patience.

As the nation learned of the July 17 atrocity at Emanuel immediate calls to stop the racism led to the action on the Confederate Flag, an action that began in 1999. Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said her organization already has started to hold discussions with local businesses and institutions to address discrimination.

But she cautions that the community shouldn’t think that racial discrimination that’s existed centuries will change in three weeks.

“We need to change some things like what happens in employment and public education and we need concrete change. But we must remember it hasn’t even been a month since those nine people were killed at Emanuel. That was a game changer and things are changing as evidenced by the removal of the flag. Two weeks before July 17 we wouldn’t even have had that discussion.”

“Now we’re beginning to see people like Gov. Nikki Haley and others working to make a difference. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves to think things will be fixed overnight,” Scott said.

Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston and vice president of Operations and Religious Affairs for the National Action Network said economic empowerment is a change that must become a reality for African Americans after the sacrifice of the Emanuel Nine. While Blacks today have more money and education than ever before in American history, as a group they still don’t possess economic opportunity.

Citing the outpouring of compassion from whites after the atrocity at Emanuel, Rivers said, “We have to ask is this just a guilt trip or an opportunity to change the dynamics of racism in America.” He pointed to Charleston County School Board’s decision to name a candidate overwhelmingly opposed by Blacks and others as its new superintendent as an example of some people’s refusal to change.

“The deaths of the nine people at Emanuel didn’t mean jack to the school board. If they didn’t respect us in a time of our worst crisis, can we expect them to change in good times?” However he optimistically added, “We fought for the removal of the flag for 15 years and in just two weeks after Emanuel it’s coming down.”

But like Scott, Rivers said issues such as expanding Medicare, ceasing attacks on voting rights, employment discrimination and discrimination in criminal justice and incarceration will require patience. And renegotiating the relationship between Blacks and whites, he said.

“Renegotiating means if they don’t do business with us, we won’t do business with them. Collectively, as a community, we have to renegotiate a relationship that requires making structural changes in how things operate. First we must have that conversation within the Black community and ask ourselves if we are ready to renegotiate. Then we can go to others and let them know we don’t want more conversation. We want renegotiating.”

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