Charleston Tragedy Offers Lessons in Forgiveness

by Daniel Smiechowski

While the relatives of the victims who were so mercilessly shot in Charleston, South Carolina have offered forgiveness to a cold blooded killer, a defining moment in African-American history lives in present day America. How is it possible to forgive the hatred and needless killing of innocents in a place of worship?  For those of color, it must be impossible to feel their pain. The benevolence of a sacred church, the goodness of a bible study group rocked to its core by hatred, discrimination and scapegoating yet the unthinkable from a long time ago.

Handed down through the ages, the following story illustrates the power of forgiveness so prevalent within the culture of African American women. The great wooden ships laden with a human cargo of future slaves sailed into Charleston harbor. Both men and women were stacked like cord wood below deck and suffered unimaginable distress. The rampant contagious disease spread to the Captain and crew. While the old man steered the sickened death trap into the docks, the crew fell to their knees in both sickness and despair. The very same African women, treated like animals without humanity on leaving their beloved home in Africa had nursed their so-called masters to health on the same docks they were left forgotten. This testament to the human condition is a mark of Christianity and ought to give every American pause.

Racial discrimination, hatred and profiling have no place in America. The massive Civil Rights Act of 1964 has unfortunately not blossomed into a wondrous flower. Too many of our citizens are in denial that prejudice does indeed exist in these United States. This must end. During the nineteen sixties, a Catholic priest named Father Groppi literally moved a nation by marching hand in hand with African Americans into Milwaukee’s South Side. The Governor declared martial law as the priest crossed the proverbial Maginot Line in the “City of Churches.” The rest is history. My Father attended the same seminary as the good priest in Saint Francis a suburb of Milwaukee. I remember the incredible events as a teenager and will never forget the untold heroism of Father Groppi.

Three events in my life stand out as quite memorable those being an invitation to speak before the San Diego Urban League board of directors, another speaking engagement before the Baptist Ministers in Southeast San Diego and an invitation to speak with former City Councilmember George Stevens at his office in downtown San Diego. Outside of a few sports prima donnas, it’s rare to find most African American’s acting with pretension and being superior to most whites. As they say in France, “Les Americains ont fait le cinema.” This loosely translates into Americans pretend. Across the board, the African American community is quite humble and down to earth. They deserve better.

Be nice, do good deeds and don’t be a stranger as we at the Clairemont Times value your participation.

Daniel J Smiechowski has been a resident of Clairemont since 1967 and can be reached at or 858 220 4613

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