Many people of good will (including those who are far more articulate than I) have shared their thoughts about the unspeakable murder of nine innocent people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. What can I possibly add to what has already been said?
I share in the outpouring of sympathy for the families and friends of the victims and marvel at the forgiveness some of them have expressed publicly. I share the sorrow that I know the residents of Charleston feel. And I grieve deeply, as an American, that such an act of racial violence can take place here in our home.
Several years ago I moderated a panel at an Independent Sector Conference which was called "Letting Go of Dead Ideas." One of those "dead ideas" was the notion that now, with an African-American President, we live in a post-racial society. (Independent Sector is the leading coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good in America and around the world). On hearing of the Charleston shootings, I remembered the words of one panelist, who said there is nothing post-racial about our society, that racial divides still exist in a myriad of ways. Regrettably, his point has been proven over and over since then in cities across America.
When I think about Charleston, does it conjure up other "dead ideas?" What about the ideas of "trust" and "safety?" Are those ideas and ideals now dead?
In The Junior League, we've been involved in a two-year conversation about diversity and inclusion; about where we are as individuals and an organization and what we are moving toward. This is not our first such conversation in our 114-year history as we seek to reflect our communities and the people we serve. We explored our shared values and adopted a new Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Statement: "The Junior League welcomes all women who value our Mission. We are committed to inclusive environments of diverse individuals, organizations and communities."
A simple statement? Yes, but also one that is profound in terms of what is asked of us. We own these words and we own the responsibility to live them. The tragedy in Charleston gives each of us an opportunity to examine our own implicit and explicit biases, to encourage our diverse membership to come together, to share and to explore the ways to bring that statement to life in our hearts, our Leagues, our communities and the world. A world where, I hope, that it is "mistrust" that is dead and "trust" that lives, where the dead ideas of "fear" and "insecurity" are replaced by "safety"...and where inclusion is alive and well.