By T. C. Phipps-Benjamin
The unimaginable massacre of 9 unsuspecting parishioners during Bible Study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday June 17, 2015 marked a considerably low point in the state of race relations in America.
The world now knows that a 21 year old hate mongering Caucasian man named Dylan Roof brazenly ended 9 African Americans lives because of his hate for black people. From the outside looking in, one can only imagine the depth of the pain borne by loved ones, their circle of friends and the entire state of South Carolina. The loss is truly profound.
The massacred victims were game changers in their respective communities. The various contributions they made to their church, to their families, communities, state and nation have been glowingly lauded across US radio and television networks, as well as print and social media. Many are baffled as to how the families of the Emanuel AME 9 will move beyond the hate meted out to their loved ones on that fateful night.
While the essence of hate that sparked the Charleston murders has intensely fueled the conversation on race relations in America, it has also challenged many of us to examine the pockets of hate that exists in our corner of the world.
Hate At Home
In the twin island federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, we have been battling a ruthless spate of hate, hinged on our many differences. For years we have been trying to arrest a crime epidemic, perpetuated in part by our young men who settle disputes by wielding some of the most modern weaponry normally inaccessible to ordinary civilians.
Hate has found a haven among some of our vulnerable youths. Young men at odds with one another stay clear of territory on which they deem their safety threatened. How can youths who knew each other for most, if not all their lives, murder another with such bravado? Our nation has recorded 18 murders in 7 months; a testimony that the value of human life has plummeted exponentially in our land of beauty.
Not long ago, many of us were guilty of playing down the occurrence of youth on youth crime in the federation. We minimized gang crimes believing once the supposed youth warfare ended, our nation would return to normalcy. Our reality today is that many of our sons pride themselves in harboring “hate” for their peers and what they do with that hate is now punishing an entire nation. Our young men have become emboldened enough to commit murders even as the rays of sunlight beam down on our nation. They murder without consideration of the consequences for themselves or their victims’ survivors.
Unbridled Hate Across The Ocean
In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court determined that individuals who are unable to prove their parents’ regular migration status can be retroactively stripped of their Dominican citizenship. It appears those targeted by this ruling are primarily of Haitian descent and the new law excludes them from any activity that requires official identification. This means no work in the formal sector, the inability to attend school, to open a bank account, to pay into retirement or social security funds, to access health services, to get married, to travel or to vote. Research shows that over 86% of the potential victims of this new law are of Haitian descent.
Notwithstanding this widely deemed discriminatory law that is clearly meant to rid the Dominican Republic of Haitians, many Dominicans have openly demonstrated their grade of hate for Haitians by meting out brutal beatings on many Haitians. In fact, social media has been bombarded by numerous videos that capture the essence of the hate dealt by some heartless Dominicans. The law may not have been implemented to spread hate, but it has been a catalyst that has sparked a new show of hate by many Dominicans. This is a travesty.
The people of Charleston, South Carolina heavily entrenched in their Christian beliefs have a long journey of recovery following last month’s massacre. Those who mourn the loss of their loved ones have declared their willingness to choose forgiveness over hate if they are ever to heal from their loss spurred by a hate-monger. Legislation recently passed in favor of the removal of the confederate flag from the Capitol building in South Carolina merely scratches the surface of the work that must be done to curb the hate harbored by people like Dylan Roof.
In our thriving Kittitian and Nevisian communities, we must effectively allocate our human and financial resources to end the streak of hate perpetrated by our youth in our closely knit communities. Given the numerous people focused organizations, church groups and optimists in our nation, we can accomplish this.
Government MUST play a pivotal role to achieve this goal by implementing stiffer penalties for gun crimes, all the while retooling our security forces to face this new, more organized brand of youth on youth crime. Rather than accept our young men dying around us while their killers remain hostages of hate, we have to be doubly diligent about ending the cycle which affects each one who resides on or visits the islands. We often boast about how talented our people are in many aspects of our existence yet we have not collectively found viable solutions to stem many of the ills that continue to plague us. We can become a model nation renowned for embracing life and shaming hate when we begin to pool our efforts together as a people.
A tough stance against the Dominican Constitutional Court from a distance may not bear immediate results but a collective opposition voice including that of CARICOM, the UN and other human rights advocates can begin to ruffle enough feathers, particularly from an economic perspective, thereby forcing the hand of Dominican law makers to revisit this new law. Silence on this issue is a gentle nod of approval.
Man-made walls meant to separate communities have been broken down when “people power” raised its defiant head. A repeal of the new law in the Dominican Republic may not come immediately but a global coalition in opposition to this law can safeguard the lives of thousands of Haitians and ensure the just and humane treatment of all Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Countless human beings accept the hate in the world as just another human element that will never go away. All around the world, hate has a space to flourish; burrowed deep within the hearts and minds of those who welcome it. Still, there are numerous noble advocates of love and tolerance over hate.
Time and again we’ve heard the wise counsel echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his earthly sojourn; “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Imagine a world awash with people committed to radiating the dark pockets of the space we occupy simply because we believe in loving more and hating less. It’s certainly one way we can begin to rise beyond the hate.