When I first started seeing the cryptic social media posts complaining about forgiveness, I figured someone publicly forgave that white lady cop after she was charged with killing the black man in his apartment. I was right about the case, wrong about the level of forgiveness.
The last complicated public forgiveness incident occurred after a white man in South Carolina stepped into a black church and spent a few minutes enjoying a little bible study before killing 9 black people in cold blood. The surviving family and church members expressed their forgiveness almost immediately.
There are a few differences in these two cases. With the lady cop, the forgiveness came after the jury rendered their verdict. With the prayer warrior, the forgiveness came the day after the killing spree. Neither case of forgiveness sits well with those who can’t wrap their unforgiving minds around why forgiveness was offered, but those who justify it usually refer to some religious reference which instructs them that it’s the right thing to do and will help make them feel better by and by.
After reading my dear friend and classmate’s guest column in the Delaware County Daily Times today entitled ‘Injustice strikes again: Is there fault in forgiveness?,’ I can tell that the Rev. Michael Robinson is struggling with this concept of forgiveness…
I’m deeply wrestling with specific layers (post-murder conviction and sentencing) of the Guyger case that are very troubling for me:
- the discovered racist text messages written by Guyger;
- the affectionate hug initiated by the black judge to the convicted murderer Guyger;
- and the gentle caressing and hand stroking of Guyger’s hair by the black female bailif.
For some deep visceral reasons, these aforementioned antics seem bizarre.
I don’t watch much TV, so my first encounter with the Guyger forgiveness parade was in a photo on Twitter with her brother hugging her and the judge hugging her. The photo caption was still cryptic to me since I had nothing to reference, but the images were confusing.
I started looking for some video clips of the lovefest and first saw the black female bailiff stroking Guyger’s hair. Now I’m really confused what’s going on in that courtroom. Then I saw the judge read the jury verdict and told the victim’s mom, ‘No Outburst,’ when she stood and threw her hands up to the heavens in obvious relief.
I recall so many times when judges orders the convicted person out of the court room in handcuffs with no opportunity to even say good-bye to their loved ones sitting a few benches away. This time, the convicted lady cop was allowed to linger around the court long enough for the brother to come up and hug her good-bye and for the the judge to step down and get her hug in, too. Well damn, did the lady cop stick around long enough for autographs and a post-conviction photo op, too?
I’m completely flabbergasted at what I saw. I still can’t process it. I’ve never seen anything like if and wonder if there’s anything like it to have been seen before.
Rev. Robinson moves on from the forgiveness piece to the justice factor in the sentencing of this lady murderer…
The scales of injustice were evident in the lenient sentencing of Guyger because thousands of inmates (mostly black males) that committed non-violent crimes (e.g., drug offenses) are doing “life prison sentences” for their lesser crimes!
Then he brings it all together with this statement…
Injustice in the court system strikes again! And again. And again. And again, against people of color in America! And yet we consistently show the genuine capacity to forgive those that wrongfully harm, hate and destroy us (though, sometimes reluctantly).
The other factor that surprised me about this case is how many people were surprised she got convicted. I can honestly say I wasn’t surprised at all. She shot the man in his apartment. Why shouldn’t she be convicted?
I hadn’t realized how many people assume white police officers will get off on every single case of killing a black person. For me, I’m still surprised when cops like the one that choked out Eric Garner for selling loosies and the one who blasted Philando Castile for a traffic stop right in front of his girlfriend and daughter get away with murder. It occurs so much, I guess most people think normal justice is to let cops like that go free.
Solomon Jones wrote a column in the Philadelphia Daily News on the Guyger verdict that helped me understand that way of thinking…
When you’re part of a community that has been targeted and victimized by police officers for centuries, when justice has been elusive if not downright invisible, when your expectation for equal treatment has been worn down to a nub, words can’t express what it feels like when justice arrives.
I didn’t follow the Guyger case but I went back to try to understand how we got to the forgiveness chapter by reading some of the old articles. Here are a few of my thoughts…
- My headline would be, ‘When Keeping it Privileged Goes to Prison.’
- I can’t believe they let her take the stand. Then when she got there she said she meant to kill him. They should have ended all other testimony right at that point. If I were the judge… ‘Honey, you done lost your damn mind. Somebody find a cell for her in the next 2 minutes.”
- Thank God for allowing a jury of color in the courtroom. Black folks avoid jury duty like it’s a crime. I’m happy to see the Blacks and Hispanics took the time to come to the court house and that the prosecution ran out of strikes for cause to keep them off the jury.
- It’s been a little while since all this took place but I have not heard anyone say what I’m about to say… ‘I wonder if she would have got off if she was a he?’ Every discussion has been about race and nothing has been said about gender. The white male cops are getting off in droves. I don’t recall a woman being in this position but the percentage of women getting off has to be a whole lot less than the men after this case.
Forgiveness and justice are complicated. Personally, I don’t have any control over what justice is handed out in the court room so I don’t look for the justice system to make me feel better with their verdicts when I’m a victim or are close to a victim.
I’m probably not too forgiving when I’ve been wronged but I’m not vengeful either. For example, if I put the folks on blast who owe me advertising dollars, I wouldn’t expect them to forgive me for giving them bad publicity. But, in a way, I’ve forgiven them by not putting them on blast already.
See, it’s all so complicated.