The reaction of the people of Charleston to last week’s mass shooting at the city’s Emanuel AME church, particularly in the faith community, has been nothing short of inspiring. The killing of 9 worshippers at the church by an apparently deranged white supremacist young man has shocked the city.
Predictably, some on the local and national stage are using the incident to grind their own political axes. Politicians are keen to propose quick fixes (a gun control bill) or symbolic gestures (removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse) when a crisis or disaster occurs, but the people of Charleston have offered what should be the most enduring legacy of this awful occurrence: unity and forgiveness. It is telling that their response has been largely positive and constructive in the midst of their mourning.
Charleston, once the cultural heart of the southern Confederacy and center of the slave trade, has come a long way in the last 50 years. It would be difficult to name a city from the old south better equipped to deal with this tragedy than Charleston. It remains, in my opinion, one of the best cities in America – not just for the history, architecture, food, music, and nature – but also for the generous and welcoming attitude of the people of all races.