PRIVILEGE AND FORGIVENESSBy Richard Myers
PRIVILEGE AND FORGIVENESS
Bob Snodgrass, Chair
Bob Snodgrass, Chair
I was very moved by the 2015 Charleston massacre. White supremacist Dylann Roof intruded into Bible Study at an AME church and killed nine people, including the pastor. Close relatives of the victims soon announced that they had forgiven Roof. At Roof’s trial, months later, his prison journal was introduced, including, "I would like to make it crystal clear; I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
How wonderful that black people could forgive a white man for something so awful! Only later, when I heard of black people forgiving and hugging a white Dallas policewoman who had mistakenly entered a black man’s apartment and shot him, did I begin to wonder, why always black people forgiving white attackers? This issue has been masterfully discussed by Isabel Wilkerson in her book, Caste (chapter 22). She does not condemn those who forgave white oppressors; forgiveness helps those who forgive. Yes, it’s nuanced, but something is wrong here.
Pope John Paul II is an exception. A Turkish criminal shot him in 1981, causing severe abdominal injuries requiring multiple operations and a long hospitalization. The shooter was sentenced to life in prison. The Pope visited him in prison in 1983, talked and prayed with him. Afterwards, the Pope stayed in contact with his family and in 2000 requested that he be released from prison, which he was. The Pope ignored caste boundaries; he didn’t need revenge.
As a privileged white man, I have no attacks to forgive. I insist that all races be treated fairly by our police and courts. This doesn’t happen today. Elijah McClain of Aurora, CO was walking home, was grabbed and choked by three policemen and given an excessive dose of a sedative by paramedics. He never woke up. Why was he grabbed? He was unarmed, but “he looked suspicious”. Daniel Prude’s family called 911 for help with his agitation. Rochester, NY police put a hood over his head and forced his face into the pavement. He died of asphyxiation, but his family didn’t know the facts until they got records from a public records request. The LAPD shot and killed Dijon Kizzee after stopping him for an unspecified bicycle violation this September.
We whites must change the system. Police brutality is too common. I know that white privilege is real; I believe that most people, including me, have a racist side- I’ve heard racist ideas from white, black and brown friends.