During his press conference in response to the massacre that occurred in Charleston on June 17, President Obama recounted the importance of Emanuel AME as a site of memory. Though he did not name Denmark Vesey, a church founder, the President highlighted Mother Emanuel as an important place for early, early civil rights activism. After Vesey and 35 others were executed for inciting a slave uprising, Emanuel was burned during the 1820s. Parishioners rebuilt the church in 1834 and secretly worshipped there until 1865….and on June 17, Dylann Storm Roof sat next to Rev. Clementa C. Pinkney for nearly an hour before killing him and 8 others during their prayer meeting.
In his remarks, President Obama acknowledged the way such violent acts distinguish the United States: “…these types of mass violence don’t happy in other advanced countries, with this type of frequency.” The call for healing in this instance largely amounts to a call for the United States to become a civilised nation. Test scores cannot measure the extent to which a student acts with civility. Test scores cannot measure the extent of one’s ability to act with compassion, kindness, and decency to those who welcomed you into their house. Test scores cannot measure one’s ability to act honourably within a democracy. In The Tyranny of the Meritocracy, Lani Guinier writes, “I’ve found that what is urgent for our world–and thus what we should consider most closely in education–is a student’s capacity to collaborate and to think creatively.” As it stands, the massacre at Mother Emanuel merely repeats the violent scene that occurred in the early 19th century. In my view, this suggests that if we want peace, then we need more ideas about how we can live together in the United States.
What are your thoughts about the importance of creativity for social justice and social change? In reflecting on the descriptions of mass murderers like Roof, why is it meaningful for students to learn how to collaborate?