Turning heartache into a message for a generation

Tom Antrim, Staff Writer

Former Chicago Cubs player Chris Singleton spoke at a UWO virtual event last Thursday about the wisdom he’s gained as a result of racism and the challenges African Americans face on a daily basis.

Singleton is well-known as a former player for the Cubs, but what most do not know is that his mother was murdered by a white supremacist at Mother Emanuel AME church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.

Singleton, now age 25, lost his mother when he was just 18 years old. But yet somehow, he has learned to forgive his mother’s killer, Dylann Roof.

Singleton, a strong and passionate individual, said that he believes in spreading messages that revolve around resilience, unity and loving one another.

“Forgiveness, I’ve realized, is not for the other person,” he said. “Forgiveness is for you.”

Singleton displayed something truly extraordinary by learning how to let go of the anger and resentment that built up inside of him.

It is truly remarkable how he has taken a traumatic experience and created positive outcomes.

Singleton said he strongly believes that teaching is an important part of creating a progressive nation.

Throughout his speech, he encouraged viewers to teach their family members and friends about the inequality that is present in our society.

During the virtual event, there was some time at the end for students and participants to ask questions.

I asked Singleton what ways non-minorities could help people of color besides teaching people in our community about the current issues.

Singleton said that there were two things non-minority individuals could do to help.

“Number one, you can cheer them on when they’re out like me, when they’re fighting for unity, when they’re marching against police brutality,” Singleton said. “For my white brothers and sisters, sometimes you just have to encourage others that don’t look like you, when you see them out there doing the hard work, if that’s not you. If that is you, get out there with them.”

His second piece of advice was to research topics that hinder activism such as redlining, a discriminatory practice that puts services out of reach for residents of certain areas based on race or ethnicity.

“We can literally go on Google and search about so many different things,” Singleton said. “I think just learning before you go into those conversations is something everybody can do.”

The second question I asked Chris was, “How do you deal with racism and what advice can you give to other people of color facing prejudice?”

Singleton said while he did see things of that nature, it didn’t get him down because he realizes that even though there is so much work that needs to be done in America, he thinks we have come a long way.

“So, I would advise you to not get discouraged, because I truly believe that even though it may be tough, we can still do great things,” he said.

Singleton said he wants minorities and allies to know that even though there is still work to be done, we have accomplished plenty already.

He also touched on the idea of white privilege, something many people still fail to acknowledge in our society.

He explained how he had even experienced privilege as a child, having a mom and a dad that supported him and were always there for him.

Singleton said that even though minorities do not have the privilege that white people do, if they’ve had another privilege that they can explain, it will help non-minorities to understand them.

On the subject of white privilege, Singleton stated, “I think when we don’t recognize our privilege, that’s where the fowl play and the harm comes.”

Singleton also referenced many honorable public figures in his presentation, nodding to Martin Luther King Jr. on a few occasions. He points to a quote from King, “I remember Dr. King had a speech that said people always say, ‘Why don’t you just pick yourself up by your bootstraps? That’s an incredibly cruel thing to say to a bootless man.’ You’re talking about generations and generations of people that weren’t given opportunities until years ago, decades ago. Some people still aren’t given those opportunities.”

Singleton highlights the fact that even though the United States is more progressive than it once was, there is still much more work that needs to be done.

He has even written a few children’s books to spread his message of love even further. His books encourage children to keep their hopes high and reassure them that they can do anything, regardless of their skin color.

In fact, Singleton released his newest book titled “Your Life Matters” just a couple days ago on March 9.