Written by A. Shuanise Washington
As a South Carolina native, this week’s shooting at Emanuel AME Church affected me profoundly and personally. It reminded me of my upbringing in a state with a deeply entrenched history of slavery and segregation. The murder of nine, innocent black people at Emmanuel AME Church is a window into the racial terror that South Carolina knows all too well.
More than fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our country remains challenged with severe racial disparities and racism. And the confederate flag is a divisive vestige of slavery, racial hatred, racial terror, and systemic discrimination. During the 20th century, The Ku Klux Klan appropriated the flag as a symbol of hatred and racial terror. In 1948, the States’ Rights Democratic Party took up the banner as a symbol of systemic discrimination in opposition to the civil rights platform of the Democratic Party. In 2015, Dylann Roof, who also brandished the flag, massacred innocent people at their place of worship in the ultimate act of hate.
I commend the efforts of Governor Nikki Haley and other lawmakers in South Carolina to remove the confederate flag from the state capital. But removing the flag is just the first of many steps that we must take to move forward.
We must have honest conversations about race relations, systemic discrimination, and attitudes about race that manifest in the lived experiences of black people in this country. We must also work together—as one nation—to develop solutions that offer all Americans uncompromised liberty and justice. The future of South Carolina and our great nation depends on it.
My thoughts and heartfelt prayers continue to be with South Carolina, the Charleston community, and members of Emanuel AME as they grieve the untimely death of their friends and loved ones.
A. Shuanise Washington is president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. Washington oversees CBCF’s public policy, research, educational and fund raising initiatives. Prior to her appointment as president of CBCF, Ms. Washington led Washington Solutions, LLC, a firm she founded in 2008 after a long and successful career working at the highest levels of corporate America. She is a native of Columbia, South Carolina.