Friday, October 4, 2019
Pass the bottle of whup ass: The limits of forgiveness
I like hugs. They stir mushy feeling that help me make it through bad days. I’m not hating on hugs or the desire to cry in the arms of a woman convicted of killing your brother. It’s your thang, do what you wanna do.
I understand the urge to announce forgiveness. There’s a release budged by ending the ache of endless midnights with a confession to set the pain free. Be gone. I’m no longer chained by my desire to end your life.
I sort of get it. Naw. I don’t get it.
I can’t because I have never endured the death of a sibling at the hands of a police officer too tired to recognize the furniture in the room is not the same as the apartment they sleep in most nights. I have too many questions regarding who trained her, what she was smoking, drinking or what she was doing before she reached for her gun.
It’s not my brother who was killed leaving me free to speculate on why a brother would proclaim “I forgive you. I don’t want you to spend any time in jail.”
The wisdom of native Americans warns not to judge a person until they’ve walked two moons in their moccasins. I haven’t cried long enough to disparage 18-year-old Brandt Jean, Botham’s brother, to announce “I want the best for you.” Young Botham’s spiritual journey is a unique experience that led to his courtroom proclamation.
I understand spiritual journey. I understand confession, release and a big bag of other spiritual practices meant to help in confronting my relationship with the world. Doing this life thang ain’t easy for black folk living in America. Can I get two witnesses?
My experience, and yours, isn’t the same as brother Brandt’s spiritual journey. So, wagging this big middle finger at his confession seems cruel. Nonetheless, I’m wagging that finger. I affirm his journey and find significance in his desire to set Sister Guyger free after killing his brother. Thanks be to black Jesus and all the disciples for the faith to hug the woman who killed his brother. Again, do you. High fives. Go to the strong Christian line behind all the other martyrs. Put on that bleached robe and golden slippers, but I’m not there yet.
In fact, I’m not drinking the Kool Aid. I need new language to reflect on my relationship with Jesus and the Church. Drum up some updated language to convey the meaning of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Help me get to the shout after all that forgiving. Why? Because I’m still pondering what it all means after a series of black people dying at the hands of law enforcement officers devoid of a credible apology.
Show me yours before I show you mine.
There’s something about black people offering forgiveness to resolve white guilt. Is it valid to expect some forgiveness? I’m reminded of the roll call of black folks forgiving white people. I have no evidence of white folks doing the same. I have memories of black bodies left to bake in the sun while white people made excuses for why they pulled the trigger.
Maybe grace is the absence of a double-standard, but why is the forgiveness of white people always the standard. Maybe forgiveness is a colorblind solution to offset the burden of sin, but why are prisons packed with innocent black men and women sentenced for no reasons. When it comes to the assumptions of white Evangelical Christian theological thought, the need to extend forgiveness is what black people do.
Isn’t forgiveness what Christians do? Sounds reasonable to assert that as a fundamental statement of faith. There’s one problem with the thesis. Forgiveness is what black Christians do. From my vantage point, white people are slack in extending forgiveness.
I can affirm young Brandt’s spiritual witness. Maybe forgiveness is what he needs to live with all the pain. What about the rest of us? How do we survive with the expectation of forgiveness? What is left spiritually when there isn’t any forgiveness left to give?
Chest bump to those strong enough to give it. As for me, pass a bottle of whup ass. My tank is empty.
How about you?