I’m writing this letter to you because I’m hurting, and I want you to understand why. I’m writing this because I hope it will help me gain some solace. Something happened that has affected me in a way that I’m trying my best to deal with, Camilla. On June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina, in these United States of America, a man entered a place of worship, Mother Emanuel AME Church, shot and murdered nine people. Nine innocent people who were there to worship their lord. This man entered and apparently took advantage of the generosity and warmth of these worshippers and murdered them. This is sickening and is one of those occurrences that we wish would not or could not happen. But, it did. And the families of these nine individuals have to now deal with the aftermath, as unfair as it is.
One of the people killed was named Clementa Pinckney. People called him Clem. He was the pastor of that church and a state senator in South Carolina. You know what else he was, Camilla? He was my age. We were born in the very same year. He won’t be able to see his two children this Father’s Day. He won’t be able to attend church this Sunday. He won’t be able to help his community as a state senator or help them worship as a pastor.
Clementa Pinckney and I share something else in common, Camilla: our blackness. Every day I think about the effect my skin color will have on your life. The looks we receive, the way people talk to me. You’ve already witnessed some behavior that might well have been motivated by hate. I don’t want to hold you back. I also don’t want you to be afraid of what might happen to me every time I am away from you, knowing what the world is capable of doing and how it too often treats men who look like me. You see, Camilla, there’s a good chance that Clementa Pinckney was murdered because he was black.
There are still far too many people who hate others for simply how they look. Our country has a long history of treating “the other” with disrespect, with hate. Hate is very real. Evil is very real. We see it far too often. That won’t change. I wish I could say something different. Yes, we have made some significant strides in this regard, but you will certainly continue to see this type of hate in your lifetime. That saddens me.
I’m also struggling to tell you something else, but I must. There is no completely safe place. These things happen in churches, schools, one’s home. The list can go on. Hate can appear everywhere. Evil comes in many forms. But, what I want you to know is this. We must not let fear conquer us.
I don’t want the evil to win. So, can you promise me something? We often talk about times to be brave. This is one of those times, Camilla. I need you to be brave. I need you to live without fear of hate. I need you to get as much out of life as you can. Don’t let the fear consume you. Keep being the person we know you already are. Be thoughtful, respectful, concerned. Be a good citizen. Address injustice. Contribute to society in a positive way. Live to make change. Because life is worth living, Camilla, and every day we have together is a special one.