Recently I read a piece in the AARP Bulletin, the June 2016 issue, on the Charleston Massacre: A Year Later, “The Long Road to Forgiveness.”
As a student of history, I almost always think that we don’t remember what we have not only learned from history, but also what has been witnessed. On social media I routinely post things about the past, that part of history, normally Black history, that most White Americans want to forget, with the legend, “Lest we forget!”
I am a Black man, born and raised in New York, in Brooklyn, in close proximity yet worlds away from the Hasidim. Once I learned the history of Jewish people, and I’m not talking about what I learned in school about World War II, the Nazi concentration camps, the Holocaust or “The Final Solution,” and I’m not even talking about what I learned about church history in seminary, but going beyond those lessons in history, even reading historical novels such as The Source, by James Michener, and I know the saying that “the victors write their version of history,” but when you think of Jewish people in the aftermath of World War II, you can’t reasonably state that they were victors and wrote a certain narrative about the Holocaust. In fact, there are even some revisionists that deny the Holocaust happened!
I know this seems like a digression from the Charleston Church Massacre last year, but what I’m saying is that I understand and have no problem with Jewish people looking at the Holocaust and keeping it “alive” in our consciousness, lest we forget. I don’t agree with everything my Jewish brothers and sisters do because of their history, but I understand. I understand their passionate “Never again!” And even though the piece in the AARP Bulletin about the Charleston Church Massacre looked at forgiveness, I think if the people closest to the massacre can find it within themselves to forgive – and all have not – who am I to question this? With that though, I would state that forgiveness does not mean forgetting. The whole point of the article is to remember, but not once in it does it even imply “never again!” to such a massacre, that is, that we will protect our church against such racists like Dylann Roof, but the new pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Betty Deas Clark, has a “muscular man in a suit [that] never strays from” her, as well as the security cameras that shows 16 views of the church’s property.
Lest we forget, there’s a history of violence against the Black Church in America that long preceded Dylann Roof. The Black Church was among the first institutions Black people formed in America, with such religious institutions as the African Methodist Episcopal Church being born and formed because of segregated white churches and white Christians treating Black Christians as less than second class Christians, which any Christian should know is an abomination in God’s eyes. I’m not even going to quote scripture on this, but lest we forget, the Black Church has this long history in America of giving birth to freedom fighters, from Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Any attack on the Black Church is not only an attack on the freedom to worship, but also on Black freedom.