Waltrina Middleton, founder of Cleveland Action and an ordained United Church of Christ minister, appeared on Faithfully Podcast to discuss how forced narratives of forgiveness dominated media coverage of a racist gunman’s murder of her cousin and eight other Christians during a Bible study at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last summer.
The Rev. Middleton joined hosts Nicola Menzie (founding editor of Faithfully Magazine) and Keisha Boston to discuss the June 17, 2015, tragedy for a May 20 recording of Faithfully Podcast.
In addition to her cousin, the Rev. DePayne Middleton, the others gunned down by alleged killer Dylann Roof include: the Rev. Daniel Simmons, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Susie Jackson, and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney (Mother Emanuel A.M.E.’s pastor).
“I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, told Roof during a bond hearing at court. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Those words were spoken just two days after the Charleston 9, as they have come to be called, were killed allegedly by Roof, who was 21 at the time. Although, other family members who spoke in court made similar remarks, some called on Roof, who was revealed to have a fixation with the Confederate flag, to repent and asked for God’s mercy on his soul. The headlines that dominated much of the news that day and into the weekend, however, held the phrase “I forgive you…” — which Middleton found troublesome.
But before delving into her thoughts about the Charleston church massacre, Middleton commented on her activism work with Cleveland Action, resistance to the Black Lives Matter movement in Christian communities, and other related issues.
Her comments on the forgiveness narrative, which she believes robbed surviving family members of their own stories and the right to lament, come at about 16:05 in the interview.