The Onus of Forgiveness

This photo shows a bronze statue called “Raise Up”, part of the display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new memorial to honor thousands of people killed in lynchings (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

During the Amber Guyger sentencing, the brother of Botham Jean, the black man shot dead while eating a bowl of ice cream in his own apartment, told the white police officer that he didn’t want her to go to prison. Brandt Jean told Amber that he forgave her. He told her he loved her. He told her that she needed to turn to God and seek Jesus Christ. The judge wept. And now Brandt is being herald as a model of grace & forgiveness.
 
You would think as a woman of faith, I would love this example of the power of forgiveness and grace. And, yes, whenever there is grace there is a tenderness in humanity that is worth marveling over.
 
But as a white woman who grew up in Georgia during the time of the Selma march, the battle over busing, and was forbidden from associating with any blacks except those employed by whites, I loathe this narrative.
 
It shames me. This narrative. Such grace is too often presumed by Whites. The expectation is that Whites will be forgiven no matter how egregiously we wrong blacks.
 
Blacks are applauded for being so merciful while Whites are continually exonerated for being so murderous.
 
It’s the modern day twist on the slave narrative: No matter how many beatings a black receives, he or she is expected to forgive and to exemplify an uncommon loyalty. They are expected to be the example of Christ to the world.
 
That’s not to take away from grace that Brandt Jean displayed.
 
It’s just wrong, I think, to applaud those moments when we once again perpetuate the narrative that puts the onus of forgiveness on Blacks for all the horrible wrongs Whites do to them.
 
Some of the very same people praising Brandt Jean for forgiving Amber Guyger would lock their car doors in his presence, or walk on the other side of the street, and would not want their white daughters dating him or their white sons being college roommates with him.
 
We need to stop the myth-making that compels Blacks to subjugate themselves before Whites. Because the truth is such myths teaches us that Amber’s life is more valuable than Botham Jean’s life, despite the evidence to the contrary. Amber was not a good person. Botham Jean was.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Christian Bend (Mercer University Press) and numerous other books.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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