Will Charleston Be Another Missed Opportunity to Talk About Race?

06/23/2015 12:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

Once again, we find ourselves in mourning and, as a nation, dealing with not only a mass shooting, but also racism in its rawest form. The assassination of nine black worshippers by Dylann Roof has not so much opened wounds that some may believe were healed, but has seemingly removed a very weak Band-Aid on a gaping hole that threatens any ounce of progress that we have made since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the election of our first Black President.

Both political parties seized the opportunity to talk about how the love and generosity of the American people will conquer hate and intolerance. However, as much as I give credit to those in the country and the world who have made it their mission to comfort the entire church family and community of Emmanuel AME Church, still, neither party is talking about race in any real way. No one is taking this moment, which is all too familiar, to take a long, arduous and nasty look at the fact that this type of hate still exists and that assailants like Dylann Roof still harbor these feelings and would like nothing more than to start a race war to "protect America."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the only candidate thus far to speak about race in a speech at the United States Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, CA. She states that as uncomfortable as it makes us, "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Former Governor of my great state of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, seemed to trip over his words when he was on MSNBC talking with Joe Scarborough. Lincoln Chafee and Bernie Sanders have not addressed race. The Democratic Party once stood as the party of the Civil Rights Movement, women's rights and everything equality. However, with the silence that has come out of our Democratic candidates regarding the race issue, you would never know it.

The Republican Party does not fall far behind. As a matter fact, the GOP, which has a horrible record with minorities -- and an even more abysmal record on attracting minorities to the party -- is going to great lengths to disassociate race with what happened in South Carolina. Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush stated: "I don't know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes." How do you not know what is on a murderer's mind or in his heart when he told people and allegedly wrote about what was on his mind and in his heart? How do some people make the assessment that this particular assassination was an "attack on Christianity," when the assailant stated that he specifically went to the church to kill black people and start a race war? What about that sounds like an attack on Christianity? The question is this: What is on your mind and in your heart that you do not want to recognize the truth behind this attack? For both parties, playing ostrich to race and guns has solved nothing. While everyone and their mother is calling for the death penalty for Roof, is that really going to be the solution to the problem? Not treating the infection only makes the infection spread.

Today, there is renewed interest and calls for the Confederate flag to be taken down from the state capitol in South Carolina. Is this a start? I hope. If we want to be the generation in the 21st century that eradicated racism, if we are to become an even greater society for all our citizens, if and when the Confederate flag is taken down in not only the state capitol in South Carolina, but also in other Southern states that recognized the Confederacy, the United States needs to have a talk, a discussion, an argument, a controlled shouting match to get our feelings out in the open. Then -- and only then -- will we be able to understand that racism and discrimination not only limit our possibilities as a nation, but diminish our capacity to achieve the greatness that so many sacrificed their lives to see.