CNN
Now playing
01:07
Mayor: Charlottesville is grieving and praying
Fox News/Twitter
Now playing
01:33
ADL wants Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson over racist comments
CNN
Now playing
02:36
The truth behind Covid-19 vaccines for sale on the dark web
Now playing
04:22
Levi's CEO has message for Mitch McConnell
Now playing
01:54
'You think I'm racist': Former Fox News host storms off camera
Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson of the reality series "Duck Dynasty" attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson of the reality series "Duck Dynasty" attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
01:46
'Duck Dynasty' stars discuss raising biracial son on new show
FOX/"The Masked Singer"
Now playing
01:24
Nick Cannon makes big splash in 'Masked Singer' return
The Drew Barrymore Show/YouTube
Now playing
01:26
'Mom' star speaks out about not having kids in real life
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses.  (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:53
Restaurants face a nationwide ketchup packet shortage
Camerota Berman both
CNN
Camerota Berman both
Now playing
02:33
CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota gets surprise tribute from co-anchor
Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons delivers remarks on the US economy at the New York State Bar Association meetings in New York, January 28, 2009. Troubled US banking giant Citigroup last week named Parsons as its new chairman, the longtime top executive at media giant Time Warner, to steer it through its most challenging period.  AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons delivers remarks on the US economy at the New York State Bar Association meetings in New York, January 28, 2009. Troubled US banking giant Citigroup last week named Parsons as its new chairman, the longtime top executive at media giant Time Warner, to steer it through its most challenging period. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:47
Dick Parsons: Georgia law is a bald-faced attempt to suppress Black vote
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture
Now playing
02:54
'Godzilla vs. Kong' is a pandemic box office hit
Now playing
01:30
5 ways to cut your plastic waste
CNN/Getty Images
Now playing
04:40
Stelter: After elevating Gaetz, Fox News barely covering scandal
NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Now playing
01:08
See NASA spacecraft successfully land on an asteroid
Now playing
06:51
Alisyn Camerota's kids wish her good luck in new role on CNN

Story highlights

The Rev. Sharon Risher: Protests in Charlottesville correlate to the gun violence at Emanuel AME church in Charleston

Until we end systemic racism, blacks will continue to bear the devastating effects of gun violence in America, writes Risher

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Sharon Risher was formerly a Trauma Chaplain at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. She is a member of the Everytown Survivor Network, which brings together Americans who have been personally affected by gun violence. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN) —  

I’m a proud daughter of the American South, and my heritage has shaped me into the woman of faith I am today. But like many African-Americans from the South, I am no stranger to the hate and intolerance that has defined a large part of our history.

Two years ago, my mother and two cousins were among the nine black parishioners who were shot and killed by a hate-fueled man at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. Growing up, we witnessed and heard of so many racially motivated hate crimes in communities like ours, including the Birmingham church bombing in 1963, which killed four young, innocent black girls.

The Rev. Sharon Risher
The Rev. Sharon Risher

But never in my life did I think our country would return to such unspeakable acts of violence and intolerance. And then a white supremacist walked into my family’s church.

There is a direct correlation between the violence and racism in Charleston and the violence and racism in Charlottesville, Virginia. And until we put an end to systemic racism in this country, African-Americans will continue to disproportionately bear the devastating effects of gun violence in America.

Not only did the Charlottesville protesters carry their Nazi and racist flags and spew their bigoted chants, but they also openly carried their guns to scare and intimidate others. In this case, the deadly weapon that resulted in one loss of life and 19 injuries wasn’t a gun, but a car that rammed into counterprotesters. My heart aches for the family of Heather Heyer, as well as the families of the two police officers killed yesterday while monitoring the protest.

It is incredibly dangerous to ignore someone who uses the Second Amendment to incite fear while donning Third Reich and Apartheid-era symbols. And we can no longer shut our eyes and ears when we see such hate on display. As I know from Charleston, hate, when armed with a gun, becomes deadly.

Since my mother and cousins’ death, I have devoted my life to being an advocate for gun violence prevention. In the days after their deaths, I found my previous work as a trauma chaplain did not properly equip me to handle a traumatic event when it touched me directly.

In my exploration for understanding, I began to pay attention to how our lax policies, especially those surrounding guns, played a part in hate cutting short the innocent lives of those beautiful individuals at Mother Emanuel.

As a black woman, I know it will take a mighty powerful lift for America to begin doing work to heal the racial strife that has threatened and hurt so many communities. And while I know our laws can only do so much to overcome this generational curse, I am determined to advocate for policy changes that can help protect many vulnerable communities forced to live as targets of discrimination just because of who they are.

According to Everytown For Gun Safety, a nonpartisan organization devoted to reducing gun violence, more than 20 hate crimes involving a gun take place in our country every single day – this amounts to more than 8,000 a year.

And when we look at a state like Virginia, where the white supremacist rally was held, and which allows the open carry of firearms on its streets, we begin to see how guns coupled with racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia or transphobia can be used to intimidate marginalized Americans.

This is entirely unacceptable.

This summer, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, and Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, introduced the Disarm Hate Act, which would prevent individuals convicted of violent misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing or purchasing guns. While there is not one complete solution for this issue, this law would be a crucial first step toward protecting other families from the pain and trauma mine has experienced.

I am not a policy expert, but I know that we all have a right to live in this country, regardless of our race, gender, faith, gender identity or orientation. We should never have to fear that a hate-fueled individual will fatally shoot us in our place of worship, university or movie theater.

We have prayed. We have marched. We have cried. But as Charlottesville reminds us, now we must act.

We cannot wait a moment longer.