As I am sure everyone is aware of the tragic shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church had quite the ripple into American culture. From a micro scale to a macro scale, this shooting had an effect on my Westside Neighborhood, to the town of Charleston, and ultimately the entire country in a different spheres of our society. On a smallerl scale, members of the community that did not normally attend church (like my white roommate) went to church after a staggering amount of time never entertaining the thought. He actually got a seat at Emanuel AME the following Sunday and said the service was moving.
Unfortunately, this didn’t push me to the edge of enlightenment, but it did give me an excuse to check out the outside world. I followed the city’s twitter to figure out the events happening in the aftermath. I saw the Unity Chain from the base of the Ravenel Bridge. This gave me a kind of paradoxical feeling after a shooting, safety. The fact that Charlestonians were gathering together on a Sunday night, outside on the streets, before a busy work week to mourn and repair a broken community felt safe and comfortable. Nobody was lighting fires, rioting in the streets, blaming the cops, or screaming for reform. Instead we were gathering for peace and showing the victims’ families they do not stand alone.
The following week, still unemployed, I headed Southeast toward the public library. Still unsure of where I was going, Siri took me right past Emanuel AME. “Go .5 miles and turn Right,” Siri said, so I stopped in front of the church. I took a couple pictures of the white building with their immaculate stairway about one story tall. I saw Charlestonians laying flowers, those close to the victims bearing each other in their arms, and a pastor not upset, but giving forgiveness to the shooter, just as the victim’s families did to the shooter himself. Yet another example of the character of our new home. Regardless, images of the shooter came to mind. His Confederate Flags advertised in the yard, flame bearing hands, and blank face staring at the camera.
While I saved the pictures and mounted my noble steed I caught these blinding lights to my right and up on a podium, about 6 feet above me was Anderson Cooper in between live recordings of the scene downtown. How about them apples. This man would be the one to make the difference. From the little Westside Neighborhood, to all the people on the peninsula, this guy who could not only report but also exemplify the circumstances just well enough to make a change. It was almost as if everything leading up to his report from the following Sunday sermon, the Unity Chain, the gatherings instead of rioting, were enough to make political and economic waters that remained calm for decades, finally surge over a wall called change.
In the month after the shooting we have seen a variety of changes occur in the city of Charleston, the state of South Carolina, and the United States. In Charleston, bouquets of flowers and a memorial still stand in front of Emanuel AME. After more than two decades, the Confederate Flag was taken down of our State House, but outside of the politics the economic sphere finally had a much larger social impact. Walmart and Amazon had ceased the sales of all Confederate flag merchandise. I thought this was the determining factor that the victims of the shooting did not die in vane.
American is driven by what we purchase, whether it is a gold necklace of a cross, organic groceries, brand new pimped out whip with custom paint and 24’s; what we buy defines our culture and the future of what we and others that follow us believe. Without the sales of Confederate Flags in the future, American citizens who would potentially purchase the flag for years to come will slowly but surely lose the culture that is associated with them. I am not forgetting about the old timers who fly their Stars and Bars with pride on the farm, it will take time, but their grandchildren won’t be able to purchase their own when grand pappy’s flag is worn and torn. Like all good things, erasing an ugly culture from our past will take time.
Our hearts will be with the victims families, but they know that their loved ones did not die in vane. Their sacrifice is preventing future generations of hateful people from purchasing a lot of the goods we see on the backs of trucks, in the heart of Dixie’s front yards, and in possession of the shooter of Emanuel AME Church. Racist parents of potentially racist children will not see the flag as they walk past the South Carolina state house anymore and Charleston will be changed for years to come. Tourists will continue to walk down Calhoun Street as they have for years, but will always be reminded of the shift in currents that occurred in June 2015.