I have many friends. My friends happen to look very different from one another, yet I still call them friends. Some look just like me, others not so much, but to me they are all the same.
After the shooting in Charleston, for me, it is important to state how I feel about it if for nothing else than to let those who were targeted, apparently due to color, know that I have their backs.
I have friends who happen to be black, brown, yellow, red, etc. I have some friends who are deformed even, mentally slow, autistic, among other things. Sometimes my friends don't comb their hair, brush their teeth, or even shower--I think those friends in particular are disgusting, but I treat them the same even if I don't stand next to them.
I refuse to accept those who seek to suppress or oppress others, and the actions of suppression and oppression transcend appearance. Right now in America, there are groups of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, colors, religions, and others who seek to force their will upon others. I experienced it in school, and I see it today. It will never change. Unless you change.
Racism, fanaticism, fascism, etc. start with individuals. Yes, they congregate together, in person or online, but ultimately the problem is with them, individually. They have a problem with hatred that sometimes goes beyond freedom of association, and this is when it crosses over into society and becomes problematic. Freedom of association allows us to dictate with whom we shall be friends, but it does not allow us to force our will upon others.
Respect is just a word until it goes into practice. I may not like you, but I will not hurt you. I may disagree with you, but I will not threaten you. I may believe you to be my enemy, but I will not seek to destroy you. I will respect you. I will defend you.
In my world, I will defend the oppressed and speak up for the vulnerable. I will not allow those who seek to oppress to subvert others to their will. I will fight for them, and I will aid them. I belong to the underdog.
To those who were shot and killed yesterday because they happened to be black, I am very sorry for what happened to you by a person who did it because of skin color. He shares my skin color, but I do not support him. He was an idiot, and you bore the consequences of his hatred. As a Christian, I know where you are today because God guaranteed you a place in heaven for dying while spreading His message, even to your killer up to the point of your own murder. I have no doubt that you died righteously doing what we know was right to spread His Word, albeit to death at the hands of a criminal.
As a person who is white, I will not tolerate a message of hatred against anyone who happens to be of another race, and as a person who is Christian, I will not tolerate messages of hate against those of other religions even. God calls us to spread His message, not his judgement. God says that vengeance is His and His alone. Let me spread the Word, Let Him pass the judgement.
People who look different from me, you have my friendship. If I ever see you in a crowd of oppressors, I will seek you out. I will not let you stand alone even if it costs me my own life or reputation. God said, No greater love has a man than this, that he would lay down his life for another.
Racism starts with you. It ends with you too. Do not believe that you cannot conquer those who seek to oppress, and pay attention to your actions as well as your words. If you do not, then who will? We can do this.