• Nov : 8 : 2019 - IATD Launches Texas Bar Association Complaint Against Houston Attorney, Cheryl Shooks Brown for Alleged Misconduct
  • Oct : 24 : 2019 - IATD Advocating for People to Counter Crys for Amber Guyger Not to Be Imprisoned
  • Oct : 22 : 2019 - IATD Asks Attorney General To Look at Doordash’s Unjust Enrichment, Pre-Tipping Exposure and Deceptive Trade Practices Claims
  • Oct : 20 : 2019 - Loophole Results in Billionaire governor’s family farms receiving $125.000 subsidy
  • Oct : 19 : 2019 - CONREX Property Management Violates Women’s Domestic Violence Act

love people, I truly do. After over thirty years of activism in every kind of organization, scene, cause, march, rally, or protest imaginable, all across America, and globally too, I do believe that we are each part of the human family, that all of us are equal and all should be free to be who we are.

I also believe deeply in love and forgiveness, in spite of what I have survived in my own life, including racism, classism, violence, abuse, betrayal, and abandonment. I overstand, as we say, what it is to be wounded—damaged—by the behavior of others.  I overstand that deeply hurt people hurt other people, which is in essence, part of the painful story for blacks in America. 

There is no way to discuss America, its history, even the very nature of its democracy, without also discussing race, racism, and what this nation has done to its black populations from slavery forward. Indeed, as I have said before, slavery was not only devastating to black folks physically, but I would argue that those endless hours of back-breaking free labor coupled with severe brainwashing on those plantations—believing everything white was right and everything black was wrong—remain within us, consciously and subconsciously, emotionally and spiritually, to this very day. Through the end of slavery and legalized segregation, through the Civil Rights era, through the birth of hip-hop, right on up to Black Lives Matter. If you teach a people, any people, to hate themselves, in school, in popular culture, at church, they will develop a warped sense of what is right and what is wrong, and will go out of their way to find goodness and forgiveness even in the worst forms of oppression and injustice.

When that mindset carries on for generations, it is what Albert Einstein famously called insanity. Because we know that racism, or any other form of discrimination, is insane. Because we know it is ridiculously insane for one black person after another, in our America, to be gunned down, simply because they are black, because there is a paralyzing fear and blind assumption that said black person will harm you, because you have been so contaminated with the belief that black people are, well, monsters. 

Even if said “monster,” Botham Jean, was in his own Dallas, Texas apartment when a white woman police officer, Amber Guyger, walked in allegedly thinking the apartment was her own, and instead of using any of her training to diffuse the matter, blew Jean’s life away as if he didn’t matter. Only to find it was his apartment, not hers, once he was dead.

Jean did not stand a chance when racism reared its ugly head from the barrel of Guyger’s gun, just like countless black and brown bodies do not stand a chance when they wind up in the web of a prison-industrial complex seemingly waiting for them all along.

Jean did not stand a chance when racism reared its ugly head from the barrel of Guyger’s gun.

Nor do we as black people stand a chance when Brandt Jean, brother of Botham, racked with his raw emotion, decided without consulting his family members, to not only forgive Guyger in the moment of her sentencing, but to also ask if he could give her a hug. And so did the black woman judge. And for good measure, the black woman bailiff stroked Guyger’s hair, consoling her as she received a measly ten years in jail for murdering another human being. 

There is that image of Brandt Jean tightly hugging Amber Guyger as the American flag hangs, solemnly, near their embrace. I was sick to my stomach, just as I was when black folks in Charleston, South Carolina quickly and decisively forgave Dylan Roof for coming into a black church and blowing away every black person in that prayer circle. 


Yet while we continually forgive white America no one has ever asked black America to forgive this country for its sins against us, including endless racial violence in these times. America should ask black people forgiveness for habitually expecting us to forgive these murders, be it police brutality or racist vigilantes like Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman. But this is the insanity of white justice in America. You can beat, maim, or kill us, but we will forgive you long before we even think to criticize or resist the insanity. Because the same white fragility Robin DiAngelo described in her landmark book not only stunts white people, but it also leads black people to go out of our way to comfort white folks, to center white folks, as Toni Morrison has said, to our detriment and shame.

So I am raising this as a Christian and whose faith teaches love and forgiveness: how do we continually praise black people for their capacity to endure and forgive, yet still refuse to have real and honest conversations about race and racism in America, about the need for the criminal justice system to be transformed completely, to be held accountable for its inequalities once and for all?

How do we continually praise black people for their capacity to endure and forgive, yet still refuse to have real and honest conversations about race and racism in America?

Some of the same people enthusiastically praising Botham Jean’s brother for forgiving and hugging Ms. Guyger are the same people who are silent and morally bankrupt on the racist murders of black folks, silent and morally bankrupt about abusive police officers who murder black people and are rarely charged, rarely convicted, rarely punished.

Yes, I will forever walk with love, forgiveness, compassion, and empathy. But reducing yet another tragic loss of black life to a Hallmark card is not justice, is not holding the system accountable. To use black folks’ capacity to forgive as a tool to victimize us again and again is a blatant form of oppression and hate. And it is trauma porn.

But I will not join the chorus of those calling Botham Jean’s brother, and the black judge, and the black bailiff Uncle Toms or sell-outs on social media. I understand why these things are being said, yet I cannot condone the name-calling either. I overstand why a people who have experienced a history of racist traumas would seek healing and redemption through personal forgiveness. Because I have worked as an activist closely with many black families who have lost loved ones to police violence I empathize with what Botham Jean’s brother’s emotional and spiritual state might be, why he would fall back on his faith to cope, to try to make sense of it all. However, I also know one of the darkest and most enduring legacies of slavery was to present slaves with a brand of Christianity that taught us to love and forgive blindly, even as we were being de-humanized over and over again. Or, rather, what we in black America still call “a slave mentality” is as real as it was back in the 1800s. 

I say the above to say the conditions that fueled this tragedy are not personal. They are systemic. Racism and white supremacy are alive and well in our system, and no amount of hugs spreading virally will erase that fact. 

Collectively, our love and forgiveness must also be tied to a clear understanding that those we offer it to need to repent, atone, permanently change. Otherwise we are just wasting that love and forgiveness, and actually wounding ourselves—again and again and again.

Tags

POLICE RACIAL JUSTICEDISPATCHESRACISM

kevin powell

Kevin Powell

Kevin is a columnist/blogger. He is also a civil and human rights activist, public speaker, poet, journalist, filmmaker, and author of fourteen books.Read more by Kevin Powell

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