By Evette D. Champion
September 15, 1963. That date is the day when four small girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dr. Carolyn McKinstry survived the bombing all those years ago, and in the wake of the most recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, she draws similarities between the two attacks.
She notes that the common trait both instances have is hatred against the African American community. Both of the churches were symbols to the parishioners of continued struggle for liberty and freedom. Both of the churches were historic national landmarks and they were both attacked while they were trying to lift their community to higher possibilities.
In an article she wrote for Time, she mentions that although things have changed since the Birmingham attack in 1963, it appears many prejudices still remain.
In black communities, the church has always been a symbol of freedom, vigilance, hope, liberty, and triumph against obstacles. It is the great symbolization of the eternal quest. In an attempt to bring down this mentality of hope and perseverance, the black churches are often attacked. Many times, so are the parishioners.
According to McKinstry, the attack on the Emanuel AME church in Charleston was an act of domestic terrorism. Unfortunately, many African Americans are at the receiving end of this domestic terrorism, as their homes, businesses, and places of worship have been bombed, burned, defaced, and assaulted without abandon.
These perpetrators act in a way that shows no hesitation and do not even think about what kind of repercussions they may cause—whether to the community or the church-goers themselves.
McKinstry believes that hatred is not an instinct, but a learned behavior. When we are born, we are a clean slate. The people we become is a direct result of our environment, what we see, and what we are led to believe is “right.”
Everyone should be accountable for their own actions. It is up to us to examine how we live and how we interact and treat our fellow man if we ever hope to live peacefully in this diverse country of ours. Sadly, even to this day, we cannot accept that it is a diverse country and that we have to peaceably coexist with our neighbors who may be different than us.
Like McKinstry says, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”