June 20, 2015


Church shooting forces Charleston, S.C., to confront underlying racial tension (CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE AND KURTIS LEE, 6/19/15, LA Times)

In a state where the Confederate battle flag still flutters over the Capitol grounds, Charleston is a place frequently described as "genteel," and -- because of the abundance of churches -- as "the Holy City." People say it's awkward, if not impolite, to talk about race.

Now, in the aftermath of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church -- at the hands of a 21-year-old white man fond of white-supremacist symbols, police say -- the subject is inescapable. Many black people say a sense of abiding uneasiness was never far from the surface.

"Black folks remain on edge, especially since this is the South, and we got history," said Clinton Brantley, 73, pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church in North Charleston.

Kay Hightower, 50, attends Emanuel AME and knew the pastor -- one of the victims -- well.

"People need to take ownership of all the history," she said. "And that's a painful thing to do. Until you have these awkward conversations, you can't get over it."

Hightower said she moved back to South Carolina from New York 11 years ago to raise her family. "It's more racialized down here," she said. "I'm very cognizant of the separation between white people and black people. It's more complicated than to say it's segregated."

She said she was troubled when she heard a politician describe the church massacre as "an attack on Christians," because to her mind that misses the point. The victims in the church "were murdered for the color of their skin," she said.

Posted by at June 20, 2015 9:23 AM

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