Because your behavior hasn’t changed.
You know the routine: a Black man or woman is murdered by police and within twenty-four hours the media begins asking the surviving family members if they forgive the police or person who committed the murder.
With cameras glaring and video broadcast to the nation and world, grieving families are forced to confront the worst fears of their lives and forced to publicly renounce their grief and anger in order to make white America feel good and assuage their fear of seeing and hearing expressions of righteous Black anger.
Why does the demand for forgiveness always present itself to Black folk so early in the grieving process and What does it accomplish?
The demand to Black families to forgive white cops who murdered their loved one is the state’s first action to invalidate the real life and necessary emotional response to the horror of racism’s ultimate outcome.
It is racism’s targeted gaslighting.
“Your loved one is dead but do not grieve or long for them; do not express anger or seek retribution; tamp down your anger and forgive your killer before us all so that we know you will remain compliant and beholden to us your overseers.”
The same people who applaud Donald Trump’s personal mantra of “Never apologize” hold Black families to a standard that they themselves do not adhere to.
The idea of forgiveness in America is counter to America’s and American’s lived experiences.
Based in Christian theology Black and White Americans, separately and unequally, learn of forgiveness as taught by The Christ and his followers. The bible they all read and profess to adhere to directs them to forgive because each person also needs God’s forgiveness.
God forgives you so you must forgive others.
There’s a missing piece to this teaching and the expectation taught to its adherents:
I must be alive to forgive you.
Said another way, my family can’t forgive you in my place when I am dead.
And if I am alive, you need to ask my forgiveness.
Please point me to George Floyd’s killer’s request for forgiveness.
To ask for forgiveness one must understand contrition, humbleness, and accept the wrongness of one’s actions.
If there are videos of killer cops asking grieving families for forgiveness they are so rare that I have never seen one.
But I have seen far too many grieving families offering forgiveness to those same killer cops.
And while the media and white citizens are clamoring for Black families to forgive, they are passing harsh laws that do not forgive the transgressions of those arrested. Instead, they create harsher laws, longer sentences, more brutal enforcement, and dish out a wide array of punitive punishments designed to ensure Black folk never forget why they were punished.
America has designed a legal system designed to eliminate the idea of forgiveness so thoroughly that it holds tens of millions of mostly Black and brown people in the prison and probation systems.
The very act of asking Black surviving families to publicly profess forgiveness is trauma that is added to the forever-trauma of losing a loved one to state violence.
This is trauma that no surviving family deserves and the media should put an immediate end to the practice.
Do not come to us for absolution.
As a matter of fact, no, we do not forgive you. You have not shown contrition nor have you changed your ways. You have hunted, brutalized, murdered, lied, maimed, and destroyed our lives and families, safety and our peace.
And to white Americans we say:
Your ways have not changed. You have not done the introspection required to understand why you are like you are. You do not see the error of your ways because you continue to give yours and our money to your hunters; you continue to elect conservative “tough on crime” prosecutors; seat almost all-white jurors, choose conservative judges, pass laws that make our lives miserable, sentence us more frequently and to longer sentences, and force us to live in inhumane conditions while exploiting our labor.
No, we do not forgive you because at the same time you demand our forgiveness you continue the same behaviors for which you ask forgiveness.
That is not how forgiveness works.
The next time I see a Black family standing on their front porch grieving the lost of a loved one murdered by police, and I hear a journalist ask the family if they forgive the murderer, I hope and pray the answer is:
“The murderer hasn’t asked for forgiveness and my relative isn’t here to grant it.”
© 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.