We’re traveling and so we recorded a few shows ahead of time. So I can’t do anything on the radio about Charleston, and I don’t know that I would or should anyway.
But I do want to write a little bit here before our day in London starts.
When a person of color, or a person of a non-Christian faith, does something horrific, the narrative is about the group or groups to which they belong. And just as often, when a white or (nominally) Christian person does a similar act, the narrative shifts to being about mental illness, and how surprising the act was.
Of course we have to talk about mental illness, and of course a fully healthy person doesn’t do these things (though lets steer clear of making this yet another chance to stigmatize those with mental illness).
But we can’t end the conversation there. I think we have to think about how children are raised — with love or with hate, and with active conversations about race and class and differences and privilege. And about guns. When those conversations are not part of our culture, it’s not at all surprising that these killings keep happening.
I don’t know anything about the Charleston killer’s childhood beyond what has been reported, and I don’t know if that’s all been accurate. I’m not saying a thing about his parents.
But I do know that he walked into a place that welcomed him and sat down next to people who were raised to welcome visitors with open arms and open hearts and open minds. He at least pretended to pray with these loving people, and then he stood up, looked around at them, these people who had welcomed him and prayed with him, and he shot them to death. With a gun given to him by his parents.
It’s reasonable to ask why I’m posting about this on the website for a children’s radio show. Jessica Luther, an Austin mom, posted this on Twitter yesterday:
“A 5yo black girl survived last night by playing dead. Surely my 6yo white son can survive a conversation about why she matters.”
Maybe naively, I think part of that conversation can be started and facilitated through music. Music that celebrates love and difference and play and fun and history and the future. Music that gets kids dancing together, spinning together, singing together, holding hands together. Music that asks interesting questions and hopefully gives parents a chance to talk about some possible answers.
So, put on some music, hold your kids, and, if the time is right, have a hard conversation about what happened. It can only help.
Love you all.
As usual, Elizabeth Mitchell (here with Dan Zanes) is a great place to start. Hopefully the embedding will work:
P.S. Please don’t make the narrative be just about the South, either. South Carolina has some amazingly wonderful and loving people, and every state has its problems. Certainly there are regional issues but these are not issues unique to anyone or any state.