In the wake of the death of George Floyd, filmmaker Brian Ivie, who directed the documentary “Emanuel” about the Charleston church massacre, posted a message to white viewers of the film. He pointed out that among the reactions he has come across, people have left little room for anger.
"As my film, 'Emanuel' has gone out into the world, I have seen some of the most amazing reactions. Prayer meetings in movie theaters, long overdue apologies, and town halls on equity and healing. But at the same time, I have also seen many white viewers react with a kind of relief that the black people in the story 'rightly forgave' their white killer,” Ivie said on Instagram.
He said he understands that reaction because America’s “white elite,” including himself, are often uncomfortable around people of color that do not fit the category of a “magical” black person.
"Whites are, at the risk of being dubbed a naive Hollywood liberal (which I’m not), disturbed by any black person who shows anger. This is often what's called 'white fragility.'"
In June 2015, nine black congregants were gunned down during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church by then 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof. "Emanuel," released last year and now available for free viewing by Starz until June 16, examines the power of forgiveness as it follows the accounts of survivors and family members of the victims.
Just days after the shooting, several of the family members faced Roof in court and said they forgive him. One even invited Roof to repent and give his life to Christ.
"The fallout from this reaction was, to say the least, complicated," Ivie noted in his post about the act of forgiveness.
"But even more complicated (and tragic) for many black Americans across our country, was that forgiveness toward their killer was quickly praised as the 'proper' or at least the 'desired' response from the entire black community at large. In short, there was no longer room for anger. And as a result, for change.”
Ivie clarified that his post was not to discount the message of forgiveness because he, as a Christian, believes wholeheartedly that God led the families of the Charleston victims to do that. However, he had a specific message for his white brothers and sisters as a result of the racial injustice that continues to be a theme in the nation.
"I'm writing to encourage all white viewers of my film to consider why we feel so relieved by black forgiveness. And perhaps, why we feel so disturbed by black anger. And most of all, to consider why black people have had to become so good at forgiveness in the first place,” the creator of “The Drop Box” stated.
Ivie concluded that "the story of the 'Charleston church shooting' is not only a story about forgiveness, but about justice, and about the entire glorious gospel. Which, despite popular opinion, is not about America, but about a kingdom. A kingdom where every person is free.”
“Emanuel” was executive produced by actress Viola Davis and NBA star Stephen Curry and profits from the film were shared with the survivors of the shooting and the families of the victims.