The Spectacle of Black Forgiveness

Terrance Thomas
Oct 7, 2019 · 2 min read
Brandt Jean embraces Amber Guyger after his victim impact statement

For the past week, I’ve painfully followed the trial of Amber Guyger, a white, now ex- Dallas police officer who fatally shot Botham Jean after mistaking him for an intruder in his own apartment.

Amber Guyger was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A sentence which many, including myself, thought was a slap on the wrist. After the trial, Botham’s brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to address Amber in a victim impact statement.

“I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.” Said, Brandt.

“Can I give her a hug, please?”

Brandt asked the judge. Moments, later Brandt and Guyger embraced in a tearful hug. Within minutes, news outlets began reposting the moment- applauding Brandt for his act of forgiveness and grace. I quickly found myself overcome with rage. My anger was not with Brandt but rather the gross inequity of black forgiveness.

We’ve heard the mantras:

“Forgiveness is for you, not anyone else”

“Forgiveness is the first step toward healing.”

Forgiveness has long been prescribed and peddled as a condition for healing black trauma. It is often reinforced through religious dogma and adjacent ideologies that black bodies have historically bound themselves to. Black forgiveness acts as an extinguisher for the flames of white arson.

But the problem with the politics of forgiveness is that it transfers the burden of restitution from the trespasser to the person(s) who were harmed. Those who violate are given immediate grace; often without offering a single iota of remorse or reparation.

There is no greater example of this than the rigid history of black bodies in this country.

Black folks have endured and survived the worst atrocities and human rights violations ever recorded in history. A cruel origin story of human trafficking, cultural erasure, and the commodification of forced labor.

The scars of our generational trauma have never been formally acknowledged. Instead, they have been carefully tucked beneath the fibers of this country. I reject the notion of forgiveness without an exchange of humanity.

I have no interest in finding a moral high ground amidst chaos. Nor do I have any reservations in the next life. I simply yearn for the day when we explore and celebrate non-forgiveness as a tool of liberation. Our humanity is worth that much.

I write things. Great things. Things you would like.

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