A eulogy told in roses

Amid the despair and darkness and desolation that reigned in the aftermath of the murders in a South Carolina church, the front page of the Sunday Charleston Post and Courier left me, and I am confident, thousands of others breathless.

It was simple. It was elegant. It was incredibly powerful.

And, surely, it was drenched in tears many times over.

Nine yellow roses bunched above nine names, each name with a brief sentence below; nine lives claimed by hate; nine men and women who had welcomed their killer in friendship to share their study of and love for the word of God.

The more I stared at this startling image, the more I found myself clinging to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., praying that someday they will be more than just a dream.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality,” Dr. King said. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Where is that bright daybreak of brotherhood? The Confederate flag, an ancient symbol of deep and bitterly painful division, still flies on the Capitol grounds in South Carolina.

Many of the previously cautious, and too often silent, politicians are finally saying take it down. But why did it take this moment of horror to bring about this first tiny glimpse of sunlight?

And how much longer will the starless midnight of racism cast its blood-covered shadow on this nation?

How much longer? How many more yellow roses? How many more names of the dead before we witness the bright daybreak of brotherhood?

Gregory Favre is former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for the McClatchy Company. He is editor of CALmatters. His most recent piece for The Bee was “The effect of covering tragic events.”