Charleston: Beyond Black and White

Today at work I asked a young colleague — I’ll call her Marie — what she thought about  the events in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Charleston? The nine people killed? My sister won’t even turn on the television. I am afraid to walk to my car after work. We have this at home, too,” she said.

Home, for Marie, is Romania, a country where by various reports more than 5,000 Orthodox priests were imprisoned, 400 Eastern Rite priests were murdered, and, under President Nicolae Ceaucescu, at least hundreds and possibly thousands killed for various offenses against his rule.

Marie is slim and petite and blonde and very pale, except for her huge and luminous brown eyes. She and her family came to the United States not so very long ago. They live and work in communities regularly ranked among the safest in the nation. And yet, this week, they are terrified.

I’m telling Marie’s story because I have a long-time friend — a white American — who can’t see anything fearful in the young man who pretended to pray with 12 people for an hour, then shot nine of them dead.

I fully agree with my African-American friends that this historic church and its valued leaders were intentionally targeted, that this was an act of terrorism, not just one crazy person’s shooting spree.

But I want my old friend to hear: white people can also look at this boy and be terrorized. Terrorism is terrorism. If you haven’t learned to see it, you haven’t learned as much as I might have hoped in six decades. God have mercy on you and us all.

About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at, and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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