Statement on church massacre from Community Relations Council

As you may know, I serve on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. Today, in consultation with our Executive Director Henri Baskins, I drafted this statement, which is now posted on the CRC website:

The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council joins the good people everywhere across our state who are shocked and saddened by the brutal murders of a pastor and eight members of his congregation as they gathered in peaceful bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston Wednesday night.
Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers go out to the families and friends of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other innocent victims of this merciless attack.
But as we look with anguish toward the Holy City, we know that this crime strikes at the heart of our own community as well. Not only was Sen. Pinckney a respected member of the Legislature – he had been in the State House the day of the shootings – but the young man accused of these murders is one of our own – a resident of the Midlands, who attended our schools.
And the issues raised by these acts go beyond the mere fact of one person’s derangement. If Dylann Storm Roof was indeed the killer, then we know that he traveled from his Columbia home to commit his crimes in a church that has profound meaning in the history of our state, a landmark of tragedy, struggle and hope for African-Americans for the past 200 years. We’ve seen the photographs of the suspect defiantly wearing symbols of white supremacy, and posing on a car with license plates proclaiming “Confederate States of America.” We know what these things mean.
If police have the right man, then his act of domestic terrorism is firmly rooted in the worst elements of our history, in the original sin that after all our best efforts still haunts our nation, our state and our communities.
As these communities struggle to make sense of what happened last night, the conversations will be difficult. They must be conducted with mutual respect and civility, but without shrinking from the truth.
The Community Relations Council, which was founded 50 years ago to help foster just this kind of conversation, stands ready to serve in any way that we can help.

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