With the nation mourning the victims of the Charleston church massacre and observing the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, the June 16th commemoration of slave emancipation, there's no better time to confront the toxic influences of racism and easy access to guns that came together this week. "We can't accept events like this as routine," said President Obama. Actually, that was what he said after Newtown, several mass shootings ago. This time the president was, rightfully, angrier and wearier. "I've had to make statements like this too many times," he said, noting that "at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries." That reckoning should happen now -- right now -- even as the Confederate flag continues to shamefully fly at full mast above the South Carolina state house.
How far have we come on the road from slavery to freedom isn't just a rhetorical question 150 years later. A people who don't know their history are more likely to repeat it. The resurgence of hate crimes and emergence of mass incarceration of males of color remind us that freedom requires constant vigilance and justice needs a fire that burns in all of us. I believe that we are in the second post Reconstruction era. Although some forms of continuing racial intolerance are overt, some forms are subtle, covert, technical, political, and very polite. Wrapped up in new euphemisms, better etiquette and clever political rhetoric, it's still, as Frederick Douglass warned, the same old snake. Let's call it out systematically, oppose it nonviolently, and move forward on becoming a free and just nation.