As an old white guy, I was surprised to learn that a black person forgiving a white person is some kind of betrayal of the black community. This, according to some black commentators.
The objections were raised in the case of Amber Guyger, a white Dallas cop who tragically killed an upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean. She had mistakenly entered his apartment, thinking it was her own, and shot him thinking he was an intruder. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But the story didn't end there.
After Guyger was sentenced and the jury left the courtroom, Jean's brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand. He told her he forgave her and that Botham would have wanted her to devote her life to Christianity before the two shared a tearful embrace. [See video below.]
Now some of us would call this a rare and admirable act of forgiveness. An act of Christian love and an effort to lighten the crushing culture of hatred infecting America today. But no.
Liberal, black commentators are condemning it. As the ever-liberal Guardian explained in "Amber Guyger deserves to go to jail. Black people shouldn't have to feel sorry for her:"
So when Brandt and presiding judge Tammy Kemp each got up to hug Guyger after the sentencing, there was a sense of anger and betrayal. Guyger, who is white, was being publicly placated seemingly for suffering the consequences of a crime she committed, a crime for which people like her rarely ever suffer consequences.
And that was mild.
I gotta be honest. As a Black person, I almost threw up when I saw Botham Jean’s Black brother and the Black trial judge lovingly hug — and a Black courtroom deputy sheriff meticulously primp the hair of — a convicted murderer.
He added for good measure:
Any Black man who teaches Black people to turn the other cheek ... after they’ve been suffering ... for 400 years ... under the most cruel ... slave master that any people have ever been under ... [is] a traitor to his own people. [Emphasis added.]
These actions begged a conversation on mammying, since these black women were, in essence, nurturing this white woman. The gestures, while problematic, along with Brandt’s, did display how “selfless acts of compassion” by empathetic black people can be mistaken for absolving America’s wrongs against African Americans.
Not only do we have to endure injustices, we then have to turn around and forgive the injustice when that same luxury is rarely, at best, offered back to us. That feels like a double whammy. Forgiving, then, doesn’t become a tool for healing, but another burden we are plagued with.
Okay, I get it. Centuries of slavery, of legal segregation and racial bias is a huge, huge and justifiable cause for anger. Non-forgiveness and even vengeance is understandable.
No one said that Jean had to forgive Guyger. No one said that blacks in general had to forgive whites. This is a straw man invented for the purpose of continuing the "whiteness" clobbering, as if every interaction had a racial component. At the risk of being charged with blind whiteness, I see this woke reaction as, in itself, a version of blindness.
Forgiveness is a virtue; has been taught for eons and across cultures to be so by wise people. A virtue is an ideal, to be practiced because of its, among other things, healing effect. For example,
"While it can be hard decision to forgive, clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky says it ultimately helps the victim move on. “Revenge, anger, holding grudges always just eats at your heart, eats at your mind, and doesn’t allow you to really move on,” she told CBS2’s Christina Fan.
Beyond that, there's a higher good. Forgiveness is good for the soul. It is God-like. It raises us above the beasts and enriches our lives. It opens the door to other virtues; it nurtures the good life and the good society.
Jean's act should be seen as an individual decision, one that he made on his own, motivated by his values and sense of what is right. To criticize him for it reveals a flaw that afflicts the critic, not the absolver.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.
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