Tomorrow night (Monday September 21) PBS will have a special town hall conversation titled America After Charleston. The town hall will be hosted by PBS moderator Gwen Ifill.
Standing to his feet with hunched shoulders drawing him closer to a microphone inches from his face, a white man looked into the eyes of a black journalist on Saturday and said he had been “taught wrong” about race.
The grief that overcame him in the fallout of what has come to be known by some as the deadliest hate crime in South Carolina made that much clear, he said.
The brief exchange, met with praise from a racially diverse crowd that filled the pews of Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, was filmed as part of “America After Charleston,” a PBS town hall meeting on the aftermath of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting that claimed the lives of nine black parishioners.
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old Eastover man charged in the deaths, faces nine counts of murder as well as 33 federal charges alleging hate crimes and religious rights violations.
Where do we go from here? It’s a question not easily answered. Nor does PBS broadcaster Gwen Ifill, who moderated the discussion, claim to have the solution.
“That’s not on us as journalists,” said Ifill, a co-anchor and managing editor of PBS’s “The NewsHour,” and managing editor of “Washington Week,” during an interview.
“Our responsibility is to host the conversation,” she said.
Among those in attendance is the brother of one of the Charleston 9 victims.
Former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham, whose sister Cynthia Hurd was killed in the shooting, rebuffed what he described as generalizations of forgiveness made about the families of the victims that suggested that forgiveness was something they had all expressed.
“The attack was an attack on a race of people. It was an attack on humanity. … I have a forgiving spirit,” Graham said, pausing for a beat before landing his point. “I do not forgive.”
America After Charleston can be seen on your local PBS station at 9:00pm ET.