The horrific massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black churchgoers died at the hands of a white supremacist gunman, has been a powerful jolt to America, prompting a renewed focus on racial divisions and the need to confront them.
Many say our nation has failed at dealing honestly with our history of racial oppression and violence, and that the Charleston tragedy should be a wake-up call. Are we on the verge of a shift in the national discourse on race? Perhaps; but for that shift to have a lasting positive effect, there must be an honest and open conversation across the board.
In the aftermath of the crime, we have seen some conservatives downplay the issue of racism. Several Fox News hosts have tried to spin the shooting as “an attack on faith” because it took place in a church, despite overwhelming evidence that the motive was a racial one. Several Republican presidential candidates also tiptoed around the plain fact that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged in the shootings, deliberately targeted blacks out of racist convictions.