f*ck white absolution from black forgiveness

October 11, 2019
239 Picks

Processing… Since the ending of the Amber Guyger trial, I’ve been struggling to find the words to explain how I truly feel about the entire “injustice” system.  A white woman with a police badge walked into an apartment that wasn’t hers, murdered an unarmed Black man and somehow has come out of this as more of the victim than Botham Jean, the Black man she murdered. And in what has now become a viral moment, the brother of Botham Jean forgave her (which is his right to do) and media ran with another tale of how compassion is the answer at the expense of Black pain.

White women being damsels in distress is as American as apple pie and unseasoned food. Their ability to weaponize their tears through lies has led to the death of many Black people. Amber is no different than the white woman whose lies got Emmett Till killed, or an entire city named Rosewood destroyed. Throughout the trial, Amber wanted to be absolved of her actions — as did her fellow officers, as did the state. So much so that the jury was allowed to consider a “stand your ground” defense, which if it would have been granted, would have meant that a cop could legally enter your home and kill you without cause.

I can’t get the images out of my head: The Black court officer who brushed Amber’s hair to make sure she looked good at her sentencing. Watching Brandt Jean, Botham’s brother, ask to hug Amber and telling her he forgave her. And finally, the disgrace of the Black judge who found it in her heart to come off the bench and hug Amber, with the real victim’s family onlooking. To be clear, I’m not even mad at 18-year-old Brandt, who needs to do whatever it takes for him to process this tragedy, regardless of how we knew the white-dominated media would spin it. 

But we must talk about the capacity for Black folks to often feel obligated to forgive our oppressors. White people love Black forgiveness because it gives them absolution without ever having to change their actions, while remaining an oppressor. Colonization fucked us up. It has us thinking that there are actually good white people in this world — who always seem to be absent when bad white people are harming us. 

There is a reason white people tell us to “get over slavery.” They don’t want to hear the stories of what happened at newly renovated plantations where they have their elaborate white parties and weddings. They can’t admit to the heinous behaviors of their ancestors, dead and living, that would require them to look in the mirror and reflect on how hard they clutched their purse when a Black person entered the room. They aren’t able to reflect on every time they let a cousin or friend let the N-word slide without being checked, and actually, admit that many of them have a kink linked to seeing us in pain. 

Black people, specifically those who are descendants of the enslaved, have been known to be some of the most forgiving people on this earth. We have an uncanny ability to find good in those who have harmed us, or have benefited from our plight. We find a way to have joy while in the midst of trauma created by our oppressors and the systems that keep us oppressed. White people have fucked us over. Non-Black People of Color have fucked us over. Even Black people have fucked us over. And yet — we are still expected to save this world from itself and allow all who harmed us a chance in that salvation. 

Be clear. Like many said that day of the verdict. If you forgive my killer and oppressor, I’m coming back to haunt you in your dreams. Hell, I’m coming back to haunt you in your daydreams. 

More seriously, I want us to grow out of how white folks have conditioned us — and Christianity has sold to us — that showing forgiveness to those who harm us is necessary. It simply is not. There are other ways in which one can gain closure from an abuser — forgiveness is not always the answer. It is NOT the job of Black folks to fix whiteness. It is NOT the job of Black folks to heal the heinous. 

I want forgiveness to be something that is earned through changed actions. I want Black folks’ forgiveness at times to be unattainable despite the work white folks do to make changes. Most importantly, I want Black folks to forgive ourselves for trying to fix an existence we didn’t create. Your healing doesn’t have to come at the absolving of white folks.