Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing Survivor, Rev. Dr. Carolyn McKinstry, Says the End of Hatred Starts With You

Carolyn McKinstry Maull
Carolyn McKinstry Maull

It is frightening that America is more concerned about the color of skin than honoring the commandment to love others

I am a survivor of the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four young girls were killed. On Wednesday I spoke to a group of sojourners about how hatred is yet alive and well in our country. When we sow seeds of hatred, we have no control over the effects of that hatred on the lives of innocent people. I believe that only love can overcome hatred. Wednesday night—much to my sadness—we saw this hatred manifested once again in Charleston, S.C.

The shooting at the Emanuel AME Church and the death of nine people were frighteningly reminiscent of the bombing in 1963. The common thread of both of these events is hatred. Both churches were symbols of the continuing struggle for liberty and freedom by people of color. Both are national historic landmarks. Both have been assaulted as they attempted to move their communities to higher heights. There exists in America an ugly history of the burning, bombing, banning and belittling of black churches in America, which was especially prevalent in 1963 Birmingham. Second class citizenship is still the reality for many people of color. They encounter continual reminders of the responsibilities of citizenship, but too few opportunities to enjoy the constitutional privileges of that citizenship.

Yes, many things have changed since 1963. The tangible signs of segregation were removed. But the real question is: Have hearts changed? America continually finds itself at the intersection of the same question: Will America elect to make real the promises of democracy for all of its diverse citizenry, or will true democracy continue to be a matter of privilege for the select few? America’s silence—like the bomb that killed four little girls in Birmingham—can be heard all over the world.

Churches have always reflected great symbolism in the black communities. They are symbolic of freedom, liberty, vigilance, hope, faith and the ability to overcome obstacles. They symbolize an eternal quest. Often in an attempt to discourage, intimidate or simply destroy this fervor and energy of the people, the churches are assaulted. But many times the people are assaulted as well.

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Rev. Dr. Carolyn McKinstry is the former President of the Board of Directors of the Sixteenth Street Foundation, Inc.

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