Is the black community too forgiving?

Lindsay Keener | Staff Writer

When I think of the Black community, my community, I am often reminded of our resilience, fortitude and endurance. I am also painfully aware that these collective character traits were not sparked by a sudden jolt of strength, but a need to survive. 

Survival is not the prerequisite to struggle, it is the consequence. The existence of black people in America begins with the stories of slaves, manipulated into complying with the requests of their slave masters.

Thousands of abused men, women and children were forced to remain in a place of pain in fear of physical torture, separation from family or death.

Hampton University junior nursing major Amber Wynne strongly believes that the relationship between slavery and religion has played an instrumental role in the concept of black forgiveness.

“We were given Christianity by white men during slavery,” Wynne said. 

“Christianity teaches that we will not reach the kingdom of heaven if we do not learn to forgive. This concept has been ingrained within us. As a
community we tend to forgive very quickly because it is ‘the Christian thing to do.’ We have been trained to do so because of a concept that was created by the oppressors who controlled us.”

As with most traumatic instances, the negative effects last much longer than we would like to think. The psychological manipulation black people regularly face did not end with the eradication of slavery but has carried over into modern-day history.

In the wake of the death of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black man killed by a white police officer when
she was off-duty, it has become increasingly clear that the tale of race relations in the United States is far from perfect. The murder trial for Amber Guyger has gotten high media traffic following hugs given to Guyger from Jean’s family and Judge Tammy Kemp, who sentenced Guyger to 10 years in prison.

Both displays of affection sparked tension. HU junior Austin Sams had different responses to each embrace. “When I saw the family, specifically the
brother of Botham Jean, I understood that might have been the best way for them to cope with this tragedy, taking a posture of forgiveness,” Sams said.

“However, when I saw the judge embrace Amber Guyger, I felt as though it was inappropriate. Although I’m sure her emotional connection to this case, and even Guyger, got the best of her. I believe her responsibility is to conduct the business in her courtroom and try her best to deliver justice for the victim and her family.”

To say I was surprised by the level of empathy given to Guyger would be a lie. I have come to notice that in most cases surrounding racism in the United States, there are often three common responses: complete outrage, a need to forgive the person who carried out a wrong against a community or indifference.

These responses are usually short-lived. The anger lasts for a moment until there is a new topic of focus. The forgiveness subsides. And the level of indifference changes depending on the next transgression that occurs. In short, it is a cycle with
no end in sight.

HU senior Destany Manns thinks forgiveness says more about the oppressed rather than the oppressor.

“It’s important to forgive anyone who has wronged you,” Manns said. “It shows a sign of maturity and strength.”

It can be quite hard to determine if a community is too forgiving, as it is all up to one’s circumstances and opinions there is no definite answer. “I don’t believe there is such a thing as being too forgiving, but I do believe you can forgive someone while still having the expectation that they receive a punishment for their wrong doings,” Sams said.

What does it mean to be forgiving? Are black people too forgiving? I can’t say I’m sure.

However, forgiveness is based on one’s personal experiences. And as much as I admire my community’s resilience, fortitude and endurance, it will not do us any good in the long run.

 

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