The Emanuel A.M.E. Church Massacre and Forgiveness
By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Susie Jackson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Tywanza Sanders. These are the lives of the nine African Americans who have symbolically joined the four little Black girls who lost their lives in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. They have been immortalized. And still, enough is enough.
It was heartbreaking listening to some of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church victims’ families make their statements before a judge on the June 19, 2015 bond hearing for Dylann Roof, the confessed murderer who was shielded via a video link to the courthouse.
Practically each representative of the families said they forgave Roof.
Of course, they have a right to forgive him. But I am going to express the other end of that forgiveness spectrum and semi-echo the statement made by another family member on ABC’s Good Morning America. This particular family member said that at this point she is not ready to “go there” with forgiveness and that forgiveness will be a “process” with her.
I know so many others feel her justifiable anger. My anger also centers on the fact that it is usually Black Americans who express ‘forgiveness’. And like it or not, these constant acts of forgiveness inadvertently add to whites’ perception of African Americans being docile, childlike, and all the other stereotype garbage stemming from an ante-bellum America to make white Americans feel justified about slavery, Jim Crow, and 21st Century Jim Crow. Or it makes them believe faithfully that America is in a post racial society.
This historic white paternalism makes it mandatory that Black people ‘forgive them’ because that paternalistic notion is that whatever punishment is handed down by the ‘massa’ is deserved. So whip the Black into submission so the slave can be happy. Or if he gets too disobedient, you can make him an example by burning him alive with the same enthusiasm as ISIS burns its victims. After slavery, whites could further make examples by lynching and burning Black males alive after they had served in wars without any Due Process from the U.S. Government which aided and abetted terrorism on Black citizens. America’s Black citizens remained the only ethnic group which had to live under the rules of Jim Crow which, contrary to belief, was in both the South and North. The East and West.
What I am getting to is that the word ‘forgiveness’ is a tricky word and an astonishing perception when presented to the wrong crowd. Collectively that crowd is white America which resides in a government which is mired of systemic racism that is cushioned on white fear.
Forgiveness certainly plays well in a white mainstream media which, too, suffers in systemic white fear. Immediately when a young white male is accused of a crime, mainstream media goes to work to gather distractions (reasons) such as blaming Roof’s action on gun-violence, the Confederate flag, mental illness, and last but not least, the N.R.A. It scrambles to find redemption from Black Americans with scenes of Blacks accepting their plight in America. This is why the media praised those members of the massacred victims for forgiving Roof. It lauded these family members to the point where they were no less than saints for forgiving a 21-year-old evil white boy. Forgiving a white person is not so much extraordinary as it is expected. It is America’s hidden Rule of Law that a white can inflict whatever punishment he wants on a Black American because he knows the Black citizen will “forgive” him anyway. Then life goes back to normal once the Black expresses forgiveness. This was why the media presented beautiful scenes of Blacks picking up trash in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots and Freddie Gray’s murder. It is why it so quickly began to paint Trayvon Martin as a drug addict when marijuana was allegedly found in his school locker and that he had been suspended; this is why mainstream media began to label George Zimmerman a ‘white’ Hispanic; this is why the judge at Roof’s bond hearing began to rehabilitate the 21-year-old with his statement (warning? reprimand?) that those listening should remember Roof’s family (later the judge was removed because he had used the N-word in another case; however, the white-owned media didn’t make much of that); then there was a report of Roof having been arrested allegedly on drug charges. Nothing more was heard about that and in that respect he got a better ‘perception’ deal than Trayvon Martin. If Roof had been treated like Black males picked up on drug charges, he would have been pushed so far back in the cell that the nine people he slaughtered would be alive today.
In doing a quick content analysis, one does not find the mainstream media labeling Roof a criminal, a thug, a mass murderer, a killer, a drug addict, an assassin. A monster. Before it’s all said and done, Roof’s action will be attributed to mental illness, lack of gun control, his love for the Confederate flag, and last but not least, the N.R.A.
The rehabilitation of Roof and the subconscious need to reassure whites and mask white fear came out on Sunday, Father’s Day on CBS Sunday Morning and on NBC’s Meet the Press. Some of the victims were fathers and grandfathers. They were denied to live for their loved ones to celebrate them as fathers. Meet the Press chose to show clips from a documentary featuring ONLY incarcerated young Black males talking about their crimes with guns. After a white youth has killed nine Black Americans in a Bible study class, Meet the Press focused ONLY on Black males and gun-violence on Father’s Day? Then there was CBS Sunday Morning which presented a segment devoted on stay-at-home fathers. All the fathers were white and then in the middle of this segment a Black single mother was profiled. Why would CBS do this on Father’s Day? There is such a systemic white fear of Black males that producers of CBS Sunday Morning thought nothing of boldly portraying a Black single mother as a Black father role figure on Father’s Day. Where is the judgment in these presentations after such a tragedy? There was no judgment because ‘subconsciously’ white fear needed to be assuaged. So why not present young Black incarcerated males on a day where Black fatherhood should have been celebrated? Or where the Black fathers who were slaughtered at Emanuel could have been remembered? Why not further emasculate the Black father by presenting him in the form of a Black female serving as a ‘father’ who cannot afford family leave benefits?
Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have learned to sell white fear by using Black Americans as a litmus test to measure how ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ they are.
There have been only a handful of Republicans and Democrats who have expressed condolences to these nine families and to condemn hate. Most will not express it because they fear that if they openly extend condolences they would be accused of catering to Blacks—and Black is a four-letter word. This is why you hear the anti-welfare bull crap and seldom do you hear of economic solutions. White presidential candidates in both parties are now using the message of ‘it’s time to help the middle class’—code for ‘white’ middle class. ‘Welfare’ and ‘poor’ are negative codes for Black Americans. Even the Democratic Party is staying away from whatever connotes ‘Black’ to lure in more whites, because it knows that it has the Black vote anyway. At the end of the Election Day, both parties will continue white privilege and blame whatever ails America on welfare and the N.R.A.
This Great Nation is running on empty because its agenda continues to be set by two major political parties which use the Race Card to drum up its supporters. Regardless of which party gets into power, the African American community loses. America loses.
See in my psychic there are two types of forgiveness: Spiritual forgiveness and political forgiveness. The spiritual forgiveness is for God and the person extending it to judge and deal with. For good reasons, I am staying out of that one.
Like the family member on ABC’s Good Morning America, I, too, cannot “go there” except to acknowledge that indeed forgiveness is powerful and desirable when it is received correctly. When forgiveness is politicized in terms of Blacks forgiving whites, it has been viewed collectively by whites as a ‘weakness’, and such a gesture opens up the door for ‘permission’ to do it again and again and again. American History bears me out.
African Americans remain the only ethnic group in America that keeps taking abuse until it explodes and riots break out then it goes back into a passive Black mass which is viewed as ‘ill repute’. Both political parties count on this seesaw of passiveness and outbursts to justify domestic policies that do not include Black citizens.
But as I’ve written in earlier columns: Some white people get it; some Hispanics get it; some Oriental Americans get it; some Native Americans get it; some Black Americans get it. Roof’s sister got it when she turned him in. The white woman who followed him and informed the police got it. Roof’s uncle who said that he himself would execute his nephew got it. Hell! Walmart has gotten it by making the decision not to sell Confederate flags. What do they get? That America will spiral into Third World status, not because it continues to operate as a house divided but rather as a house splintered into bits because of this white fear.
To reiterate, ‘forgiveness’ is a powerful word but too often it has been misconstrued as giving ‘permission’ to do it again. American History has validated this pattern.
There is a reason why there was a Joshua who tore down the walls of Jericho. The Joshuas are needed, too, and they need to come out of the woodworks with the same resolve as those who walked the bridge in Selma, sat in the front of the bus, ran the race of Jesse Owens while Hitler looked on proving that the Aryan nation was based on a white inferiority complex that posed as white supremacy. Only God Almighty is Supreme.
And I say to you, Dylann Roof, you are forgiven by some members of the victims’ families. Your character is being systemically re-habilitated but you are in reality a loser, a lazy ass white boy who could have made something of your life but chose not to, you are a murderer, a criminal, a drug addict, a thug, a coward, and you walk underneath the belly of a snake. You are a disgrace to your family, to your country, to your race and to the human race.
And I reiterate to you, Dylan Roof and to those in your KKK and Hitler ilk, that forgiveness does not mean you have permission to do it again.
You see, that’s over. That’s ended. That’s done.
And yes, I have called you out and I am sure I have done it in away some might see in a most un-Christian fashion. Yes, I might have to spend a little time in hell for that, but I feel in my whole heart, mind, and soul, I shall not be there as long as you are and the Hitlers of the world.
And God Almighty help you if you and your haters think forgiveness gives you permission to walk into any Black church to massacre; God Almighty help you if you think you will continue to attack Black boys and men, and drag a 90-something pound Black girl by her hair around on the ground as if she were some small animal you’re trying to cage; God Almighty help you if you think you can continue to turn inner city schools into holding cells for Black children; God Almighty help you Democratic Party and Republican Party if you think you can continue to use Black citizens on Election Day and flush them down the toilet the next day … God Almighty help you Democratic Party and Republican Party if you continue to use Black citizens as strips of paper for litmus tests… the nine people who were massacred in Emanuel A.M.E. were flesh and blood and souls. The only color on those strips was red. Blood. And if you have so much fear in you that you cannot express condolences over that, then you are no better than ISIS! No better than the Dylann Roofs! No better than the KKK! And God Almighty help you white racists if you cross that thin line between ‘forgiveness’ and ‘permission’ and spill Black blood again…And if you do, every Joshua regardless of race, color, or creed needs to crawl out of the woodworks and bring this wall called RACISM down and drag your hateful ass through the backdoor of hell.
Then it’ll be over. It’ll be ended. It’ll be done.
Now let us say, ‘Amen!’