Good afternoon, everyone.
I struggled with what I should say today. What words can I offer that could possibly ease this pain, what words even begin to address the crushing grief we feel far too often. I even struggled with my presence here today. I always try to be aware of the space I occupy, and where my voice might be useful. In tossing this around and I came to the conclusion that there is nowhere else I’d rather be. There is no mission more just than love especially after such a tragedy.
To my Muslim brothers and sisters, I offer my presence as a comfort but also a promise. I promise to stand with you in solidarity against white supremacy. I promise to call it out and name the enemy that has stolen so many precious lives. I know we’re here amongst friends, but I want to be very clear in case you didn’t know: The thief who stole 50 souls from this earth last Friday was white supremacy. We must know and name this enemy if we are ever to defeat it . In the words of Audre Lorde, “We must be deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
White supremacy has many companions: bigotry, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia – and we denounce them all the same. But it is important not to allow these grand labels to distract us from the truth. This enemy vast and scary, but not insurmountable. Fighting white supremacy requires an introspection that is often painful and uncomfortable.
Allies/accomplices, I challenge you to bear that momentary discomfort and stand in solidarity. You’ll remember the promise I made to our Muslim brothers and sisters, that promise of comfort, but to you I give a challenge. Your empathy is not enough. This fight requires so much from all of us.
We need your anger, we need your tears, but most of all we need your action. There are people who should be in this crowd today. There are folks who have not yet extended their empathy beyond thoughts and prayers. What you can do is leave this space with the memory of lives lost and a will to act.
Find someone who wasn’t here and share what you learned today. Acknowledge white supremacy as much more than a collection of prejudices but a worldview that can reach from Charleston to Charlottesville to Christchurch, New Zealand. I entreat you to enter the halls of power here in Greenville and Columbia and Washington, DC, and boldly stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Consider the smaller ways in which white supremacy can infect our daily lives and cut it down before it grows.
Finally I ask that you examine yourself. Do not allow hate into your heart. Be deliberate and afraid of nothing.