JUNE 18, 2015
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Dear friends and colleagues,

We are devastated by the loss of life at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the historic black church in Charleston South Carolina where a domestic terrorist shot and murdered nine people during a Bible study last night.

We mourn the victims who have been identified so far: Clementa Pinckney, a pastor of the church and South Carolina state senator; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a track coach and church pastor; local librarian Cynthia Hurd; TyWanza Sanders, a recent graduate of a local college; and Myra Thompson, a Charleston resident confirmed by her local congregation as one of the murdered.

We share our deepest condolences with the loved ones of the deceased who have yet to be identified, with the survivors who must deal with the aftermath of this attack, with the community suffering from the loss of their loved ones in such a horrific manner, and with the global community that is asking where do we go from here.  

No matter our religious or cultural tradition, as a society there is a consensus that houses of worship are inviolable places—they are sanctuaries. That the murders took place inside the walls of the storied Emanuel Church has historical resonances that cannot be ignored. Black churches in the South have long been institutional community anchors, places of support for people without access to any benefits of the social system, and safe havens against violence and subjugation, both systemic and individual. Black churches have long been crucibles of community empowerment, and as the historian Edward Ball noted in the New York Times today, these institutions are “tethered to the deep unconscious of the black community.”
This terrible tragedy is another reminder of the disproportionate violence suffered by black Americans. In the midst of our grief, we must continue our national soul-searching and urgent dialogue about the implications of racial identity and racism in this country. As Charles Pierce writes in Esquire today “What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is “unspeakable." We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly. We should speak of it as terrorism, which is what it was. We should speak of it as racial violence, which is what it was.” 
So we must continue to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter. We must, and we will, continue with our hard work in advancing a society where love and connection are at the center and where hatred and terror are pushed to the margins, even—no, especiallywhen it seems overwhelming to do so. 
For now, we share our heartbrokenness with the community of Charleston.
Staff of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society
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