We have all watched in horror the events of the last week, when a deranged gunman full of hate and racial animosity, entered the Emmanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina and took the lives of nine worshipers. Photos of him posing with the confederate flag – a symbol of pride to some but a potent symbol of southern racism – soon appeared in the news. It was clear to everyone what the young man’s motivation was but it also propelled to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness the issue of race relations – one again – but this time a symbol of it’s racist past was also exposed. Like the scab on a hard to heal wound people were forced to confront what some have chosen to ignore, others have thought was laid to rest, and many have had to deal with every day.
According to the reports, the killer wanted to start a race war among blacks and whites. What he achieved was the opposite. First we saw a stunning display of the love of Christ, when one after the other family members of those killed offered forgiveness and grace to to the young man. Next we saw people of all races coming together in unity and support of those who were taken in such a horrific act of violence. A few days later, Nikki Haley the governor of South Carolina stood with a cadre of leaders, both black and white and declared that the Confederate flag so proudly flying at the state capitol must be removed. Within days calls for the removal of these symbols of slavery, racism and segregation went up in other southern states – Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland – with politicians on both sides of the aisle declaring that the time is now.
On the part of Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s female Republican governor – a minority herself – it was decisive moment. We can argue that she made the call to score political points, which she certainly did since her political capital increased dramatically – but I think she should be commended for acting swiftly. According to the law she does not have the power to order the flag’s removal, but that’s not the point. The issue will eventually play out in the legislature but the discussion – long overdue, or drowned by dissenting voices – has started. All because a leader led – decisively!
Procrastination is the bane of every leader! We put off things, we are not sure, we ignore, and things don’t get done that should be done. If we are to turn knowledge into action we must learn how to act decisively. In the Old Testament story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), a Philistine giant terrified the Israelite army for more than a month. For forty days Goliath would come out on the hill and challenge the Israelite forces. The scripture says that when King Saul and all the Israelites heard his challenges, they were “dismayed and terrified.”
A young boy by the name of David came to the camp to bring food for his brothers who were soldiers in the Israelite army. When he saw and heard Goliath he asked about him. His brother who heard him enquiring, chided him for his brashness but David kept pressing the issue. The King, when he heard about David’s queries, sent for him. When David met the king the first thing he said was: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” The rest is – as we say, – history! On that day, David was faced with a decision. An enemy was challenging him, his people and his God. He decided that he had to do something about it, immediately!
The ability to act decisively is a trait that all leaders must develop. If one is to turn knowledge into action, being decisive is absolutely necessary. For the good people of South Carolina, many knew in their hearts that such a symbol of oppression was unacceptable. But it had been up for so long and its racist history was diluted by a sense of southern pride. If governor Haley had said what she said two weeks before the murders the response might have been “yeah, yeah!” If she had waited until the shock and horror of the killings had dissipated from the national consciousness (in about a month), the effect would most certainly, not have been the same. Some have described the shootings and the resulting discussions to be a “watershed moment” for the nation; it most certainly is for the south!
CALL TO ACTION
Step 1: Think about one thing you have been putting off for some time.
Step 2: Create a plan to put it into effect.
Step 3: Take steps to accomplish your goals.