Looking at my Facebook feed, filled with posts from my social justice-oriented friends, it is easy to sit back, to feel like everything has been said. That anything I say would be preaching to the choir. But the protest posters that read “Silence = Complicity” and “White Silence = Violence” speak truth.
I wish I wasn’t writing this post. Again. But there is clearly still work to do.
Work has been done, by many groups and individuals, including the Ferguson Commission and Black Lives Matter (Campaign Zero recommendations), but much, much more is needed. In the meantime, injustices based on skin color continue across our country.
If you see an American flag today (or have noticed in the past few days), you will see that it is flying at half-staff, to honor the victims of the shootings in Dallas. And those deaths were a tragedy.
As were the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.
Which got me to thinking . . . I don’t know the criteria for ordering the flag lowered to half-staff, but something was nagging, so I visited halfstaff.org. Browsing through recent months, it seems that on a national level, the flag is rarely lowered for one single death unless the deceased was politically important (e.g., Antonin Scalia). Okay, fair enough.
My search also revealed that President Obama has ordered flags to half-staff more than any other U.S. president. Okay.
What was bugging me, what I wanted to know, was, what about June 2015? What about the nine dead men and women, including state senator Clementa Pinckney, in a terrorist attack in Charleston, SC? What happened with the flag then?
So I scrolled backward chronologically through the months:
- July 2016 — Dallas (5 killed — police officers)
- June 2016 — Orlando (49 killed)
- March 2016 — Brussels terrorist attack (32 killed)
- Dec. 2015 — San Bernadino (14 killed)
- Nov. 2015 — Paris attack (130 killed)
- Oct. 2015 — Roseburg, OR (9 killed)
- July 2015 — Chattanooga, TN (5 killed — Navy reservists)
- June 2015 — NOTHING
I went to May 2015, then back forward to June 2015. Still nothing.
So I did a bit more digging on each of the shootings/attacks in question. Number killed, whether the deceased included police/fire/military personnel, etc.
Because maybe there was a logical explanation — a reason for not lowering the flag to half-staff for the nine BLACK men and women killed in Charleston, SC. The number of deceased in Charleston matches that in Roseburg, OR, where eight students and one professor were killed.
And I could stick my head in the sand and pretend this means nothing. Is indicative of nothing. But that would be horribly ignorant at this point.
Until the 9 people killed in Charleston, SC are worth as much as the 9 people killed in Roseburg, OR, until those 9 people get the same respect, we need to keep raising our voices.
For more on racism at work, from people who live it every day, please watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwdJj8InkNc