Forgiveness in itself is a process. A process that requires reflection, acknowledgement, and compassion from both the oppressor and oppressed. Forgiveness often requires a journey of grieving and healing that looks and feels different for everyone. Although, at times forgiveness seems like more of an obligation then a choice. Historically, black forgiveness of white violence has remained a form of self-protection for blacks. America celebrates and explicitly demands black forgiveness in the face of violence.
At a philadelphia Starbucks, two black men were arrested for trespassing when they decided not to order anything. propelled the issue of racial bias into the spotlight. Rashon Nelson, 23, said that he had asked to use the restroom and an employee told him it was for paying customers only. A witness at the incident, said another woman had entered the Starbucks moments prior to the men being arrested and was given a bathroom code without having to buy anything. insistence upon involving police in seemingly minor interactions puts black lives at risk. White people have made their fear and discomfort a weapon in otherwise peaceful encounters for years. Further, white people identifying themselves as the victim allows them maintain innocence.
Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, killed nine blacks during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The families of the victims of the Charleston massacre publicly announced, less than 24 hours after the event, that they forgive Dylann Roof. The family members were embraced by the media for their compassion and fortitude. I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did, Roof wrote in the journal while in Charleston County’s jail. The systems of white supremacy demand forgiveness from blacks even though white supremacists have done nothing to reconcile or promise stop their behavior. The expectation that black people will always and immediately forgive the violence done to them by the world, or individual people, is a demented ritual.
The relationship between blacks and white supremacy is one that lacks acknowledgement and reflection.
9-year-old Jeremiah Harvey was wrongly accused of assaulting a white woman in a corner store, although this incident was negated by security footage. “Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry,” Teresa Klein said. This is one of many incidents in which white people have called the police on black people for unobtrusive behavior. To many individuals, black kids seem older than they actually are. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of the most influential books of the 19th century and was pivotal to this idea. Stoewe created the virtuous white character Ava, who contrasted with Topsy, the rogish black girl. In the novel, Harriet showed Topsy was at heart an innocent child who misbehaves because of the trauma she experienced during slavery. The success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin encouraged the world of theatre to create adaptations of the novel by using minstrelsy. The ministry version of Topsy had transformed into the pickaninny, one of the most racist images ever made. The caricature often arrived beside saintly white kids. These destructive images altered America’s perception of childhood inncocence using it as a tool of racial oppression. Now, black children are subject to scrutiny and skepticism. The adultification of black children in America has revolutionized the ways in which they are seen and heard.
Blacks in America are impacted by the ramifications of racism daily and expected to hold onto a forgiving heart. Popular media perpetuates the idea of forgiveness in hopes of trying to make sense of the event. The call for forgiveness is familiar when blacks experience tragedy under the gaze of the public.
Black people forgive in order to survive. We have to forgive countless times while racism and silence continue to flourish. We forgive not for the betterment of us, but for the sake of others. The media holds onto these black narratives about forgiveness so they can pretend the world is better than what it actually is, and that racism is simply apart of the past instead of a vital part of the world today. While stories of compassion are embraced by the media, the rage of blacks is nearly always condemned. Images of angry young black people are viewed as bad. News stations do on-site reporting of protests, where individuals who express emotions of anger and passion is rarely celebrated. These acts are seen, by most, as unforgivable, violent, and inappropriate.
Forgiveness is what blacks, specifically black christians, have been taught to do. A history of oppression both systemically and mentally deriving from slavery, with Christianity as one of it’s foundations. During slavery, Enslaved blacks adopted the religion of their masters and used religion as a way to cope with the trauma. Modern day black Christians inherited faith from their parents, who inherited it from their parents, who inherited their faith from those who were introduced to Christianity during times of slavery. The notion blacks have around the act of forgiveness is grounded in the liberation of whites. Even in the midst of racial tension, police brutality, and transformational protests we are expected to remain civil. We are prompted to show compassion in response to hatred, and calmly work through trauma. Forgiveness is complex, especially when events with obvious racist motivations occur. The countless times blacks are covertly and overtly demanded to forgive is reminder of how far America has to go to address racism, one of its foundational wrongdoings.
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