In her groundbreaking text Medical Apartheid, Harriet A. Washington underscores scientific racism as rooted in the pervasive and racist belief that blacks experience less pain. This belief remains prevalent in the apologist ideology to which the black collective remains expected to adopt and perform. The black collective is the only faction groomed to regret and repress our emotions. We are to continually endure the unimaginable but never permitted to express our frustrations. To deny our feelings is to deny our humanity. It is not weak to claim anger or upset; it takes strength to acknowledge not only that these emotions exist but that we, as a collective, remain entitled to them. The western world distorts these concepts to preclude the black collective from exuding a consciousness that eliminates mental bondage.
Contemplating forgiveness takes me back to July 13, 2013, where an all-female jury acquitted Trayvon Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman. I was exiting the bus when the verdict surfaced, and on my walk home, screams and cries of anguish echoed in the streets. The verdict functioned as a bullet the black collective had to witness murder a seventeen-year-old child all over again. When I logged onto Facebook, I did not see posts of outrage, but I did see several posts castigating blacks in an upset over the verdict. One former friend, who is an African adjacent woman married to a black man and mother to a black child, relayed her disappointment in those she “thought she knew” who translated their anger and hurt into words that did not speak to forgiveness. It was at this moment that I realized that the black collective is not expected to “rise above,” but to exist beneath the lowness of an anti-black society. In assuming this subjugated stance, the black individual functions as a model for their collective, illustrating sub ordinance to be the only comparable option to silence in an anti-black society.
In an anti-black society, weakness functions as strength. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the recent Botham Jean trial where the slain man’s brother and the black female judge embraced the white female murderess who shot Jean and left him to die. The media coverage painted Guyger as a victim as Jean lay cold in his grave. The gesture, combined with Jean’s brother’s pleading to hug murderess Amber Guyger, illustrates the ingrained apologist ideology that foments a performed forgiveness. The performative gesture of embracing the enemy; however, does not symbolize moral superiority; it symbolizes mental subjugation.
Just as there are those who vehemently believe that they can sex away racism, and that the sun-kissed, kinky-haired, and full-featured black woman coddled, wed, and breeding with white men marks a racial victory, there are those who remain adamant that forgiveness paves the way to a post-racial society.
Though Botham Jean’s murder trial, the case quickly became about murderess Amber Guyger. Guyger, smeared with a black man’s blood, epitomized white female innocence and consistently occupied central placement in the trial. Just as the lily-white liars and co-conspirators that came before her, to the white media Guyger was not wrong but wronged. Blacks, however, only attain centrality as “murderers” but never as the murdered.
Her ten-year sentence, which she will not serve in its entirety, does nothing but delineate the justice system as for and by white people. Guyger will never know what it feels like to choke on her own blood as her attacker attempts to cover their tail. Jean, like the countless slain black men who decorate history, died twice. Jean died on the night of his murder, and on the day of his trial. Guyger will only die once and will never know what it is like to reap proper consequences for her sins. For to this racist world, the only sin she experienced was that she was in such close proximity to a black man.
Decades ago, integration functioned as progress to many, however Jean’s murder illustrates that to live among whites, as a black person, is potentially fatal. A black person is never a neighbor to the African adjacent; instead, blacks are an inconvenience, a colored body that got a little too close to a white supremacist pedestal. In these increased proximities, many blacks pay with their lives, others are sexually assaulted or economically manipulated, but so many pay with their souls.
The seized soul conceptualizes forgiveness as reserved for their oppressors. For, in an anti-black society, blacks remain expected to forgive but are rarely deemed worthy of forgiveness. I recall speaking to a black elder a few months ago who describe Kevin Hart’s “homophobic” joke as “unforgivable.” I have seen similar language used concerning Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and other black men. Perhaps these assertions would hold more value if not shaped by the white media. Nevertheless, this behavior illustrate that America encourages black people to regard the actions of their collective as unforgivable, but dismiss any ill feelings for those who bear the systemic power to injure the black collective without consequence as angry or bitter.
If forgiveness is so essential to the African and America, why are we never encourage to forgive ourselves?
The answer is this; what the western world calls forgiveness is not forgiveness, it is an acquiescence to a social poison. Psychologists define forgiveness as:a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.
This definition, like every other definition granted formality by its inclusion in the dictionary, remains shaped by anti-blackness. So yes, my contention is that the very definition of forgiveness, like the definitions of “white,” “black,” and “racism,” functions with regard to race relations in America. Thus, the definition of forgiveness functions to ensure black peonage and fester the remnants of what Dr. Wade Noble called a fractured consciousness and shattered identity.
This racially distorted forgiveness ensures that the black collective remain systemically programed to forgive the unforgivable. This anti-black society has convinced the black collective that they are not worthy of emotions or feelings. As a result, blacks become reluctant and even fearful to express any emotion towards whites that deter from the expected compliance to an anti-black version of humanity.
I do not forgive Amber Guyger. She murdered Jean because she could. Subscribed to the belief that “black man” constitutes violence and rape, Guyger assumed her position of the inevitable victim of their beastial presence and untamable lust from behind a loaded gun. She, like Dylan Roof, the white woman who lied on Emmet Till, the white men who murdered him, and the white boys who stoned Eugene Williams in 1919, embody what Dr. Bobby Wright called the Racial Psychopath. The racial psychopath feels nothing and operates solely to uphold white supremacy. Words of forgiveness in themselves mean nothing, but symbolically perform a similar function to a murdered corpse as both symbolize the racial psychopath’s victory.
I do not forgive the flawed justice system that systemically asphyxiated Kalief Browder, or who literally asphyxiated Laura Nelson and her son in 1911. I don’t forgive the white people who have violently abducted black spaces from the black university to the black community.
I do not forgive the sins cast against me or my people, and I am not sorry for my emotions. I will also say that I never want to get to a space where I adopt this western version of forgiveness. Forgiveness as perpetuated in the western world is yet another means of assimilation, another means to place a white mask over beautiful black skin.
To forgive these assailants is to forgive the colonizer, murderer, and rapist who abducted my African ancestors centuries ago. It is to forgive the white man who used nomenclature to brand himself into my present. I can’t forgive in the same way I cannot forget the faces that I have never seen, but whose blood nevertheless run through my veins.
I do not forgive because this mode of forgiveness requires that I forget my collective self. I want to point out that this does not make me angry, though I have every reason to be.
This makes me aware.
With that being said, I am of the sort that believes it is never appropriate to hug, or even socialize, with your oppressors, because there is always someone in our collective more deserving of that attention. These words perhaps prove more resounding now that a young man is dead. It is he who should have been held close. Joshua Brown proved an integral component to putting Guyger’s away and thus was far more worthy of an embrace and attention that the murderess. Instead, he, like Jean, had to die to make headlines.
In sharing my perspective, I acknowledge that my path to consciousness is not the sole route. There are those on a journey to consciousness who implement forgiveness as a means to survive. I accept this praxis, but I’ll never respect the gesture.
It is true that the late Dr. King Jr. said that “if you love your enemies, you already have the victory.” Lamenting on his integrative work, Dr. King also said that he feared leading his people into a burning house. This image is one that I find myself returning to as a budding scholar and a being of black female form that does not wish or strive toward whiteness in this white world. I say this to say that this burning house assumes many forms, and the western conception of forgiveness is one of them…
Black Power ❤
2 Comments Add yours
Why are we called to be the bigger person in forgiving our enemies? I’m sick of being radically kind to a group of people who have a history of harming people for centuries.
Very well said CC. We have taken forgiveness to new heights. That is a mindset that must change. Those days are over! It hasn’t gotten us anywhere.