Twenty-five years ago a band from South Carolina released a song that talked about racism and wondered aloud “Why is there a rebel flag hanging from the state house walls?”
The song writer then goes on to insist that he’s “tired of hearin’ this shit about heritage not hate.” Instead, he argues it is “Time to make the world a better place.”
The song is Drowning by Hootie & The Blowfish. When it was released in 1994, five years before the massacre at Columbine, the song was tackling the racism that men and women of color had openly experienced for generations in the South and through institutional constructs in the North.
Now, after the two most recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton (not Toledo, Mr. President) this song takes on a whole new meaning for an entirely new audience.
This is particularly evident in the song’s chorus:
Drowning, in a sea of tears
Hatred, trying to hide your fears
Living, only for yourself
Hating, everybody else ’cause they don’t look like you
The shooters in El Paso and Dayton were driven by fear and hatred for those who were not white like them. The evil bore deep holes into their psyche and mutated their worldview so much that the only way they could live in this world is to end the existence of others. The hated them so much that they shot and killed them.
They were drowning in their hatred. Lost in themselves. You know the results of that way of thinking.
So, how do we stop drowning? We communicate. We talk to each other. We find out what makes us different while also building on the commonalities that we all share. The songwriter asks “Why must we hate one another? When the people in the church, they tell me you’re my brother.”
You are my brother. You are my sister. And I will watch out for you so you don’t succumb to the hate in this world. Will you do the same for me?