“If he asks for forgiveness, I can forgive him.”
These are the words of Audrey DuBose after a reporter callously asked her if she could forgive Ray Tensing for executing her son over a traffic stop.
I spent the better half of ninety minutes watching the press conference where Prosecutor Joe Deters did his job (which shouldn’t be understated because I remember having the exact opposite emotions when Robert McCollough blamed everyone but Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown). It should be noted that it’s a shame that it’s considered a breakthrough when we get an indictment because an indictment alone is not justice. Justice is holding officers accountable for murder by placing them in prison. Justice is disassembling institutional racism that automatically puts officers in a state of heightened levels of alert in the presence of Black people.
After Joe Deters finished answering questions, Mark O’Mara brought the DuBose family to address the public. Audrey DuBose spent the majority of her time in front of the microphone to quote Bible scripture, barely able to contain herself. After she finished a reporter asked her if she could ever forgive Ray Tensing and I almost lost it.
I could imagine my own mother who knows the Bible back and forth and quotes scripture trying to be strong and speaking on the murder of one of her five children. Perhaps I’m just desensitized to seeing Black bodies murdered on television and the internet but to me this was more heartbreaking than actually seeing the murder of Samuel DuBose.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Black people are always apt to forgive or expected to forgive when they’ve been the victim of violence by White people. Following the acts of terrorism at the Emanuel AME church where Dylann Roof took nine lives the son of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton said:
“We already forgive him for what he’s done, and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family…”
In the face of lost hope and uncertainty Black people have historically clung to God, Christianity and their faith. It’s helped find the strength to bury family and friends who have been unjustly murdered while the presence of the systematic racism that put them in the ground is routinely denied.
What bothers me most about this is that no one asked the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook or the families of the people killed in Aurora or Lafayette movie theaters if they forgive the people who took their loved ones. Especially not so close to the tragedy. These families are given time to grieve and there is an outpouring of sympathy. During the Boston Marathon bombing not one reporter asked a deceased person’s family member if they could forgive the assailants just days after the bombing.
So why try to placate us?
Because if we immediately gravitate toward forgiving our enemies as well as the transgressions they’ve committed against us we won’t be prone to process the emotions such grief and anger. And there’s nothing White America fears more than an angry Negro.
This article originally appeared on The Native Son.