To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, October 2, 2022


An Issue That Can No Longer Be Ignored



Dorman, JoeI have struggled with the right words to express my feelings over the shooting in Charleston, SC. This tragedy has been heavily publicized and politicized over the past week and my frustration has grown stronger each day.

I knew the pastor who was gunned down, a good man who not only represented his congregation, but also served his legislative district as a senator. I am sure this is why this tragedy has hit me so deeply.

I cannot claim we were friends as I had only met him one time at the South Carolina State House. I remember being a little jealous that someone younger than me was already serving his people as a legislator and I was impressed with his abilities. I also recognized that he was a man of God and believed his actions would improve the world around him.

I am angry that people are looking to blame the same old political issues rather than address the root of the problem. Those supporting gun control were quick to jump on that issue. The gun in question was bought legally by the father of the murderer. Do not question the fact he owned a gun legally, but rather why his own father would buy him a weapon when he displayed such overt hatred publicly towards people.

Mental illness has also been thrown about far too often in this discussion. It is obvious he is deranged, but there is no question this was premeditated from his Internet postings.

Do those claiming he is mentally ill believe this to be the case because he murdered nine people, or because of his own words and actions which led him to commit this tragedy? Where will these people draw the line at what is “mental illness” versus “acceptable free speech” in this discussion?

If it is carrying out an action tied to their hate-filled rhetoric, then I will pray for them because it will take more than what I am capable of doing or saying to open their eyes that the words and beliefs of these racists too often spark these tragedies.

Racism is the root of this incident. Racism is the cause of this problem we face as a nation. Racism is the topic we need to discuss and work to eliminate through better understanding of each other.

In 2008, when candidate Barack Obama was running, I received two phone calls during that election period that remain in my mind to this day. These two people were unhappy with the choice of the voters in our party’s nominee and both questioned “what were we going to do to stop this n****r from getting elected” as president.

I was shocked by the conversations and fumbled around not knowing what to say in the first call, and handled the second call no better. I quickly ended the conversations and sat there with a sickened feeling both times. I remember wondering how people could simply condemn a person based solely on the color of their skin and dismissed it based on their generation being different than mine and it being a part of the time period in which they grew up.

My age group did not grow up with segregated bathrooms or water fountains. Honestly, growing up in a small, rural Oklahoma town, my limited association with black people was watching Bill Cosby on television. It was not until high school and college that I had my first experiences with people who did not “look like me” and get to learn that there was very little difference in us.

Later, as a legislator and a statewide candidate, I had the pleasure of attending many events and learned more about how people are truly facing similar problems, experiencing many of the same frustrations and trying to make a better world for their children and grandchildren, no matter what their race might be.

The fact this act was committed by a 21-year-old only makes me question if our society is truly changing or if we are seeing these views just buried deeper.

We can no longer afford to ignore the issue at hand. Until we are willing to maturely discuss these societal problems and help overcome racism, we will not see the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that so many of us want in our civilization. Until we can truly move our society down the path to a point when we look past skin color and to the belief all men and women are created equal, we will not see the last of the Dylann Roof’s lurking in the shadows waiting to strike at the next congregation.

Joe Dorman served House District 65 as a state representative for 12 years and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor. He currently is the community development director for Heart Mobile.


  1. As someone that grew up as a minority in rural Oklahoma, I agree with many of these points. We do need to have better dialogue about the causes of some of these attitudes about all races. Unfortunately, there are negative feelings between all of the races at one level or another. Even my mother who was an immigrant to this country had some notions that would be considered politically incorrect today. She gradually got over most of them but it took being exposed to people who didn’t fit the popular stereotypes that had shaped her opinions previously. Focusing on how we are similar (wanting to provide for families, wanting safe neighborhoods, etc.) instead of how we are different is the key here. I can honestly say that there were only a handful of incidents that I can recall growing up from people in the community about my race. For the most part, it was a non-factor and I believe that most people are accepting of people despite their differences. When I see people now, they focus on how they are different/unique when perhaps they should try to focus on what makes them a part of the community. All people have struggles and feel left out at points in their lives. This young man that took the lives of 9 innocent people had some serious issues. I applaud the family members that have forgiven him as I am not sure many others could. Let’s focus on building a community where people feel safe and can provide for their families regardless of race, religion, etc.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.