I gotta be honest. As a Black person, I almost threw up when I saw Botham Jean’s Black brother and the Black trial judge lovingly hug — and a Black courtroom deputy sheriff meticulously primp the hair of — a convicted murderer.
Despite the fact that ex-cop Amber Guyger — after criminally trespassing into the innocent unarmed man’s home — murdered him while he was eating ice cream, Judge Tammy Kemp during the long embrace told her, “You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven.” She actually said that. At the same time, she quoted the Bible, specifically John 3:16 regarding God’s love for the world. But I guess her eyes were blindfolded like the famous Lady Justice statue because she didn’t see Hosea 4:6 which proclaims, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Add lack of self-respect to that.
But before that, Brandt Jean asked the judge, “Can I give her a hug, please? Please.” And then, during his cuddling session, told the killer, “I forgive you.” And added, “I love you.” He also stated that he didn’t want her to go to prison. He actually said that. By the way, as my social media friend Rashika Serenity recently posted, if Brandt had been visiting his brother at 10 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2018, Guyger “would have murdered him, too.” Rashika’s right, you know.
And even before that, an unnamed Black female deputy sheriff did her “Mammy thing” by gently, carefully, and repeatedly stroking the blonde executioner’s hair as if they both were in a salon instead of a courtroom. She actually did that. It was unprofessional. It was embarrassing. It was cringeworthy.
I don’t forgive systemically racist brutality, lynching and murder. The key word here is “systemic.” I wish ill to the perpetrators of that system. I want them to suffer because they not only caused suffering and continue to cause it but also because they benefited from and continue to benefit from it.
I take my lead from one of the most thoughtful Black men in American history, which is why I put together what I call “The Five Commandments of Malcolm X” based on some of his direct quotes:
1. “Nobody should teach the Black man in America to turn the other cheek, unless someone is teaching the white man to turn the other cheek.”
2. “Any Black man who teaches Black people to turn the other cheek ... after they’ve been suffering ... for 400 years ... under the most cruel ... slave master that any people have ever been under ... [is] a traitor to his own people.”
3. “Anytime you tell a man to turn the other cheek ... you’re making that man defenseless. You’re robbing him of his God-given right to defend himself.”
4. “Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.”
5. “Be peaceful. Be courteous. Obey the law. Respect everyone. But if someone puts his hands on you, send him to the cemetery.”
And it wasn’t just Brother Malcolm who understood the absolute necessity for self-defense. It was also Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After his house was firebombed during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56, MLK applied for a concealed carry gun permit. In fact, his colleague Glen Smiley described Rev. King’s house, where several of King’s aides were staying at the time, as an “arsenal.” Furthermore, journalist William Worthy, who covered stories regarding Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that when he attempted to sit in a chair in King’s living room, he almost sat directly on top of a “loaded gun.” That kinda reminds me of that famous 1964 Life Magazine photo of Malcolm standing by a window in his home holding an M1 Carbine rifle.
Moreover, it was Rev. King in 1959 who said, “The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has [properly] never been condemned” because people have a natural need to avoid harm to themselves and their families.
Despite my personal unwillingness to forgive systemically racist brutality, lynching and murder and my personal willingness to wish ill upon and punish the systemic perpetrators, I nonetheless respect slightly or even significantly differing views. For example, poet, essayist and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib took a slightly different view last year in Pacific Standard magazine, which is part of the Social Justice Foundation, when he wrote, “To deny forgiveness is not the same as to wish someone ill. Rather, it is denying a perpetrator the opportunity to feel absolved for their misdeeds.” That point certainly has arguable merit. Notwithstanding, I personally prefer to deny them forgiveness AND to wish them ill.
If you think these are the rantings of an angry Black man — meaning me — you’re right. But it’s not just me who is unwilling to forgive Guyger. It’s also Karyn Carlo (and many others). Check out what she wrote. But before reading it, you should know that she’s white, that she’s a retired NYC police captain, and that she’s a Christian who holds the title Rev. Dr. Here’s what she said:
“Many Christians applaud that hug [by Brandt] saying it was an extraordinary act of grace on his part. Having never walked in his shoes, I will not judge him. However, as a white woman, also a former cop, and Christian theologian, I will judge the way so many of us in the white community are so quick to applaud Black people for forgiving white murderers. We did it following the Charleston nine and here we go again.
We are quick to point to the way in which Jesus forgave his own killers. But wait a minute ... as we usually do with Bible stories, we cast ourselves in the role of Jesus, but really white people in the U.S. are the Romans in the story. We are the crucifiers, not the crucified ... [We are] the defenders of [a] brutal empire who perhaps feel a little guilty at the scene of yet another lynching taking place in our name.
As such, we hear “father forgive them” as good news ... Notice that Jesus ... [did] not forgive them. He asked God to do so.
Forgiveness without repentance is what ... Adam Clayton Powell called “cheap grace.” It lets us believe we are off the hook for our evil without demanding any real change on our part. In the case of Botham Jean, “cheap grace” lets us white people maintain our sense of innocence ... without first facing up to the role we play ... in maintaining systemic racism. I want to hold ... [Guyger] and ... [myself] both accountable, her for murder and me for whatever way I have, knowingly or unknowingly, contributed to the systemic racism that caused the murder.”
I wish all Black folks would refuse to forgive perpetrators of violent so-called white supremacy. And I wish all Black folks would fight against perpetrators of violent so-called white supremacy. But far too many Black folks ain’t woke. Far too many Black folks still love their abusive Massa. So we just gotta leave ‘em behind, whether in certain cities or certain states or even in this country. It’s like the Honorable Marcus Garvey said, “I have no desire to take all Black people back to Africa. There are Blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.” Did you hear that Brandt, Judge Kemp, and Deputy Mammy?
Y’all three and many other Blacks need to read and re-read “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson and “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” by Joy DeGruy. Both books are the medicine needed to cure what so acutely ails you.
By the way, I’ll take back everything I wrote in this column and forgive white America as soon as it forgives O.J. Simpson.