The Content of Their Character

The Content of Their Character

~ 31 August 2023 ~

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Those were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sixty years ago this week. But what should have been a milestone commemoration turned out to be a week of mourning for our nation.

On Saturday, 26 August, three people were killed at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida when a misguided 21-year-old male used his prejudice to take their lives. The gunman, wearing a mask and firing a weapon emblazoned with swastikas, killed Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre, Jr., and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, because he hated Black people. After his murderous hate crime, in his final act, he took his own life.

The shooter first went to Edward Waters University, a historically Black college (HBCU) but was asked to leave by a security guard when he would not identify himself. Witnesses said the individual put on a bullet-resistant vest and mask before he drove away to the Dollar General. It is unclear if he intended to harm anyone at the college.

Racism and Hate

People are not born hating. A baby does not know what it is to hate. A child learns to hate, from the people around them – most often family. Hatred and bigotry are taught, modeled, nurtured, and absorbed. When people are conditioned to hate and to live in a constant state of fear, bigotry, distrust, and paranoia, they might commit murder. Racism is not new, and it cannot exist without racists to spread it.

Dr. King’s speech was delivered at a time when the rights and lives of the Black community – and all those who support them – were frequently targeted. Less than a month after the speech, four young girls were killed when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed by white supremacists. And although it took almost four decades, three Klan members were eventually charged and sentenced… they all died in prison.

Sixty years later, we are still missing the mark. In 2015, Dylan Roof killed nine African Americans at the Emanuel Church. The reason for his attack… he said he wanted to start a race war.

In South Carolina a couple pled guilty to a hate crime and conspiracy for bias-motivated armed robbery targeting Hispanic victims. White supremacists staged rallies and marches in protest against civil rights in several states. An Oklahoma man was sentenced to Federal Prison for a racially motivated hate crime. A man was sentenced for a hate crime for his attack on three men in Utah. In Pennsylvania, the jury recommended the death sentence for the man convicted for the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. A Missouri man was sentenced for setting fire to an Islamic Center.

And those were just in August.

Confronting Hate

In a 2019 Pew Research poll, fifty-eight percent of Americans said that race relations in the US are not good. Some fifty-six percent believed that then-President Donald Trump made race relations worse. Nearly eighty percent of Americans said the Trump Administration made it more common for people to express racist views. When the leader of a country encourages hate, it makes standards such as equity, diversity, and inclusion a challenge. While we cannot change the past, we certainly can learn from it. And we have a moral responsibility to do something about how racism still impacts all of our lives today. A national conversation is long overdue. But we can overcome… we must overcome.

Just this week, three people going about their daily lives, became three more statistics, because another person didn’t like the color of their skin. He didn’t know them. He didn’t know the content of their character, but he showed the content of his when he took their lives.

With gratitude… Lara

Photo Credit: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial across the basin in Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival 2021.

#thinkingoutloud #tol #larakajs #racism #hate #discrimination #diversity #inclusion #equity

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