There are many things that America has umm… borrowed from it’s citizens of color-
Rock and roll, Rhythm and blues, soul & swag, dreads & dashikis, lips & hips, style & slang.
But America-if the goal is flattery through mimicry or just flat out cultural appropriation, then what is taking you so long to copy another touchstone of the beautiful yet burdened Black-American experience?
Black empathy & Afro-forgiveness.
When will you seek mercy, acceptance and understanding for us in the way we have for you?
African Americans seem to have an infinite wellspring of forgiveness.
This is proven through-our complicated history in a country that has strongly resisted any desire to reciprocate that understanding.
Time and time again we see Black folk who are the victims of immeasurable horrors captivate the nation’s attention and become “honorary Negro of the month”by forgiving acts that most would consider unforgivable.
Recall the heroic family members whose loved ones that were ruthlessly murdered by Dylan Roof while they were in church.
Dylan Roof succeeded in his twisted plan to execute harmless Black people.
In June of 2015 he invaded Emanuel AME Church and during a prayer service, clutched his handgun and murdered 9 people.
Despite his evil crime, he was given the gift of mercy and love from the strong, beautiful Christian families who he had so mercilessly torn apart with his own hate.
Look forgiveness up in the dictionary and don’t be surprised if you see a picture of Rev. Dr. King.
Brother Martin was hated, cursed at, spit on and received death threats & bomb attacks aimed at he and his family.
Yet and still, King encouraged a country of Black folks who endured similar barbaric insults, assaults and murders at the hands of American terrorists to “turn the other cheek”.
(Side Note – It should also be remembered that even this great pastor of peace began to doubt the effectiveness of pure peaceful revolution towards the end of his life.)
The most recent example of the spiritual resilience and the extraordinary forgiving nature of African Americans can be seen in the recent sentencing of Amber Guyger.
As a reminder, Amber Guyger is the off-duty Dallas police officer who murdered an innocent black man in his own home while he was in violation of Dallas penal code 5:1-D;
enjoying the pleasures of ice-cream while in pursuit of televised entertainment.
Guyger found herself in the man’s home after she claims to have “accidentally” walked into the wrong apartment, thinking that it was hers.
Guyger was in fact found guilty of murder; an unfortunately rare conviction for a police officer who has caused a preventable death.
During the trial, it was revealed that officer Amber Guyger not only lied about certain aspects of her encounter with Jean but that she was also a police officer who had documented her own admission of racist feelings that were in direct conflict with her sworn duty to serve & protect without bias.
However, despite Amber’s provable racist feelings, piss-poor judgement, flawed protective instincts and a series of mental lapses ( “lapses” if we are in fact to believe her interesting claim that she thought someone else’s apartment was hers), she was extended an offering of peace and reconciliation from her victim’s family.
Brandt Jean, the surviving brother of the innocently murdered Botham gave a heartfelt testimony. He encouraged his brother’s killer to ask God for forgiveness and assured her that he sincerely loves her despite the fact that she stole his older brother away from him forever.
And if that weren’t enough,
the presiding judge in the case, Judge Tammy Kemp made it her business to blur the lines of judicial impartiality. Judge Kemp, who is a Black woman, encouraged Amber Guyger with a bible verse, gave her a bible as a gift and then wrapped her arms around her for another hug.
I don’t know Brandt Jean.
But as a biological brother, I truly am in awe of his example of forgiveness. An example that I KNOW I would not have been able to express if someone had maliciously or recklessly harmed my own brother.
However, as a “Brotha” brother, my soul wrestles with the potential unintended consequences that come from his well intended example of kindness.
Brandt Jean’s message to choose love over hatred and to wish well instead of revenge is truly inspiring.
These are profound qualities that all should aspire to.
But Amber Guyger had NO MERCY.
She shot Botham Jean on sight and then lied about the details of her experience in order to conceal her crime and distract from her racist past.
A past that may have informed her choice to shoot the darkie first and ask questions later.
Imagine had it been the other way around.
Imagine if Botham Jean had “accidentally” walked into the apartment of
a young white woman and shot her on sight.
Could you imagine a black male shooter, taking the life of a young, white, female POLICE OFFICER and then being embraced by the victim’s brother?
What are the odds that a white judge would have come down from her bench in order to console Botham (again, an alleged “accidental” murderer of a white officer) and read him scriptures of forgiveness?
I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen or even that it hasn’t happened.
But centuries of data prove and most reasonable people would agree that race drastically alters our perception of the criminal
This is the burden that all Black people carry.
At least all of us who are socially & spiritually conscious.
The burden of knowing that we can’t feel completely safe from white reactionary violence.
Not even in our own homes, while watching Netflix and eating ice cream.
This burden is compounded by the prevailing feeling that if we are disrespected, degraded or even caused to die, that we carry with us the pressure to appear to show how “decent” we are by turning off our anger in the wake of abuse.
Our black/brown/beige bodies are fetishized, then feared.
America desires us, hates us,attempts to erase us and then depends on us to save it from the guilty ghosts of it’s own racist transgressions.
We are seen as subhuman devils, intended to be forever condemned to hellish ghettos and jails. But then we are are expected to be superhuman angels with grace and wisdom that rises above our human pain.
Forgiveness is a powerful action.
I personally believe that forgiveness and mercy are two of the most honorable attributes that humans can possess.
After-all- David’s 23rd Psalm famously asks that we be given then strength
“forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Furthermore, forgiveness doesn’t just comfort the accused, but it can free the victim as well.
It relieves the victim of the pain of holding onto something that is beyond their ability to control.
Brandt Jean should be applauded for choosing to turn his grief into an opportunity to uplift.
If I had confidence that America would use the example of Brandt Jean to effectively undergo transformative change and make us a more compassionate, tolerant or equal nation, then I would be sleeping right now instead of typing these thoughts on little sleep, just minutes before I head to work.
But I fear that America- most specifically racist and racially obtuse Americans will use his compassion to continue to white-wash the reality that who and what we excuse, who we protect, who we condemn and who we believe deserves to be saved are all in a significant way shaped by race.
Acts of African American forgiveness in high-profile cases in which the victims are beaten or killed because they are Black seem to have a more negative long-term impact on our society than a positive one.
It’s why Rodney King’s infamous “can’t we all just get along” was so disappointing.
It negated the valid fear and rage that Black folks of South L.A. felt. A fiery rage that was created by segregation, inequality and exposed by a racist Los Angeles justice system.
Perhaps forgiveness, as necessary and transformative as it can be is too incomplete of an action to measure our progress towards equality.
Maybe REAL EQUALITY will be achieved on the day that a Black person is unjustly beaten or murdered by a white person and Black people in this nation are allowed to peacefully express their pain instead being viewed as unruly protestors or spoiled, ignorant, un-American ingrates.
The collective souls of people of color are worn from having to fight & fit into a society that wasn’t designed for us to succeed.
The collective backs of Black people are damn near broken from the weighted burden of carrying our own suffering and the guilt of those who persecute us.
The road to real equality isn’t found in black people’s graceful ability to turn the other cheek.
Equality is allowing us to feel like everyone else.
American and Angry.