op-ed: rose-colored colorblindness – same hate, same target, different decade, new generation

July 1, 2015

The story of a black church in America being turned into a crime scene at the hands of a hate-driven terrorist attack is all too familiar. It is part of the historical narrative of America’s race relations struggle. However, this narrative of blatant racial hate we see playing out before our eyes in Charleston, S.C. is not new, but it is new to the latest generation of minorities labeled as Late-Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Images from the 2015 Charleston, S.C. Emanuel AME Church Crime Scene harken back to the 1963 Four Little Black Girls Tragedy in Birmingham, Ala. demonstrating that colorblindness in America is a false reality. 


By AFROPUNK Contributors Kia O. Moore (Words) & Michael Dantzler (Photos)


The history of terrorism against the black church was illustrated poignantly in the viscerally charged church bombing attacks that ended the lives of four little black girls back in 1963. The bomb detonated in the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sunday, September 15, 1963 served as an accelerant in the Civil Rights Movement reaching its goals. The lost of young, innocent black lives in such a horrific fashion was the final act that pushed the hands of Washington politics, forcing change in the unjust Jim Crow Law practices occurring at the state and local levels up until the 1960’s. That hate crime helped to usher in the approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Striking Video of the Images of the 4 Little Black Girls Tragedy

Full Historical Context Mini-Doc of the events leading up to the 4 Little Black Girls Tragedy of 1963


Different Black Church, Same Crime Scene

The scenes in Charleston, S.C. bring the hate felt back in 1963 Alabama to present day 2015 South Carolina photographer Michael Dantzler captures the the mood of Charleston, S.C. the morning of June 18th. The morning after nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal churchgoers and church staff were gunned down by suspected shooter Dylann Roof.


An early morning view of Mother Emanuel AME Church from Meeting and Calhoun streets.-  (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)

Noon prayer vigil held some blocks away at Morris Brown AME Church for the nine lives lost at Mother Emanuel AME Church. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)

After the prayer vigil. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


Approximately 15-20 minutes after dismissal of the prayer vigil, there was a bomb threat called in at the Morris Brown AME Church. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


One of the head bishops who spoke at the prayer vigil, takes a moment to pray for a man on the street. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


Mother Emanuel AME Church, some minutes after reopening the Calhoun Street block in front of the church to car and foot traffic. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


The beginnings of a public memorial at the doors of Mother Emanuel AME. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


One of many interviews for longtime Congressman Jim Clyburn. (Photo & Caption by Michael Dantzler)


The Rose-colored Generations

The subtleties of racism in America appear to be going through a transformation. Racism is becoming more blatant and extremely bold in American culture once again. The most interesting part about this new cycle of blatant racism is that it seems that Late-Generation Xers, Millennials and Generation Z do not seem to be prepared or even understand how to unravel the issues surrounding race.

It seems these post-Civil Right Movement generations have not yet been able to push through those uncomfortable conversations about the piercingly dividing topics of racism, systemic injustice, and inequality in America.  

As a Millennial,  it seems to me that the post-Civil Rights Movement generations were thrust into a worldview filled with messages and media programming that painted our perspectives with a kind of rose-colored colorblindness. This pre-packaged colorblindness that we were fed permeated throughout our young lives. Our favorite kid shows and Saturday morning cartoon blocks often displayed a cast of characters that seemed to be a rainbow coalition of friends that all shared the same culture although they were different shades and grew up in various cultural environments.


Lunchroom Politics

After we 80’s babies & 90’s teens pledged allegiance to the flag, we were taught lessons of tolerance in our textbooks and on our multi-ethnic schoolyard playgrounds. We were taught to believe that colorblindness was an interchangeable term with cross-cultural understanding. We often just learned to tolerate each other and to play nice, not truly taking the time to understand each others cultures.

Many of the tables in the school cafeterias we grew up in where self-segregated. During downtime, when a kid just wanted to be understood by their peers, they often flocked to the people that shared the same cultural experiences as them. Often times those peers had the same racial identity and skin tone as that kid searching for a place to belong. There were the outlier types who found a connection with a peer group based on cultural interest outside of the context of race, but racial identity and the shared cultural upbring that comes along with it was a strong social circle magnet for kids still finding the identity that best suited them.

Tolerance vs. Tolerance

Tolerance according to the Webster Dictionary is a willingness to accept feelings, habits or beliefs that are different from your own. It is also defined as the ability to accept, experience or survive something harmful or unpleasant. America’s goal has been to project the first definition of tolerance on to the world stage, but it seems as though it has only succeeded at the latter.  

The events in Charleston, S.C. show us that to sit beside and to occasionally interact with a person of another race is not race relations it is racial politeness. It is politically correct colorblindness— the tolerance of surviving something unpleasant. For me, striving for colorblindness is unacceptable. We must fight for cross-cultural understanding.

* To continue the conversation started in this AFROPUNK article written by Kia O. Moore , connect with her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kiathewriter.