Words usually come easily to me. I can be longwinded when I speak, and my writing is rarely brief. I blame the latter on my small handwriting. For the majority of my high school years, papers were handwritten, and I had to fill the page requirements like everyone else. Since my words took up less space, I got used to using more of them.
Words usually come easily to me, but then I watch the news. I see that the country I live in has some festering wounds. Slavery has left a legacy of disparity that is proving difficult to dismantle. I feel as though I’ve been tricked, or asleep, or in denial. When I was younger, I was certain that racism was endangered. I assumed it would die with the old-timers—becoming extinct in a matter of decades. But then the news of an event like the slaughter in Charleston hits me with a sucker punch. It’s 2015, and the assailant is young.
As a writer, I feel I should write something, but my reaction is one I find difficult to articulate. And whatever I could say in response to Charleston seems like a paltry offering when compared to what better minds than mine have written already—or even just stacked against the severe magnitude of the violence that took place.
I understand the history; it’s the present I’m struggling to grasp. Current events are making it clear: racism is a currency that is still in circulation here. When the conversation turns to Charleston, I’m ill equipped to make a response. What can I say other than I’m sickened and shocked? What will my words add? I have no solutions—no pithy rallying cries or hashtags.
Quite honestly, words leave me when I’m confronted with such atrocities. Considering Charleston, words fail me. All I’m left with is a confusing mélange of feelings: pity, sadness, despair, frustration, fear, anger. All my life I’ve been told (and believed) I can do and be anything I dream—that this is a land of equal opportunity. But hearing the news, I begin to wonder if we’ve irreparably ruined this world (or perhaps just this country).
In response to Charleston, the only words I can muster form questions: How can our country have come so far and still have so far to go? Have our methods of measurement been wrong? There’s a lot that can be said and even more that can be thought, but if we hope to make this world a better place, what can actually be done?
Racism isn’t new, but it’s modernized. I expected it would linger a bit, but I’m still caught off guard by its scope and size. Has it grown, or has it just been hiding behind political correctness and false smiles? How much of our progress is an illusion? How much of equality is a lie?
It’s not that all my hope is gone. I’m just realizing how much more I have to hope for.