Chris Singleton: Hearing the other side’s story is key to national healing

by | Sep 19, 2023 | Germanna

From Germanna Community College:


Many would understand if Chris Singleton was dismissive of gun rights supporters.

He is not, even though his mother, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was murdered at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, one of nine Black parishioners killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who hoped to start a race war. She was shot six times while praying.

Singleton, then 18, forgave the killer, explaining that his mother had preached that we should not let hate win over love. He had called her “the most beautiful soul you’ll ever meet.” 

After a short career as a minor league baseball player, he has devoted himself to traveling the country 150 days a year, giving inspirational talks he hopes will bring about understanding that might end hate-inspired mass shootings. 


Singleton has written a book, “Stories Behind Stances: Creating Empathy by Hearing the Other Side.” 

On Monday night, during a Germanna Community College Conversations Series “Unity in our Community” discussion, he told a crowd in the club space at Virginia Credit Union Stadium the key to ending strife in our nation is a simple concept that can require an open mind and heart to execute. We must, he said, “understand the story behind the stance.”  


He doesn’t like guns because he associates them with his mother’s death. But a friend of his is a staunch gun rights supporter because he associates them with fond memories of bonding with his grandfather while hunting. Only when we sincerely try to understand the personal story that often frames an issue for another person can real dialogue, and true unity, begin, he said. 


“There’s a story behind every single stance,” Singleton told the crowd. “You may say, ‘I don’t know how anybody can think that way.’ After you hear the story, you might not agree with the stance, but you say, ‘I can understand how you think that way.’ You don’t have to change who you are [or agree] … to say ‘I understand this is where this person is coming from and this is their experience.’ … Even though that’s not where I am, I understand where you’re coming from.“ 


The next event in the Community Conversations series is an online talk at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5 by author Etaf Rum titled “Embracing Authenticity and Finding Truth from Within.” 

Dr. Sukeena Stephens and her son Dakiiro Whitman, age 12, listen to Chris Singleton. His t shirt says “I am Black excellence unfolding.”


Suzanne Rossi photos

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