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Some see rush to forgive as rush to forget racial violence

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By ERRIN HAINES
Botham Jean's younger brother Brandt Jean hugs convicted murderer and former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her after she was sentenced to 10 years in jail, Wednesday in Dallas. Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed 26-year-old neighbor in his own apartment last year. She told police she thought his apartment was her own and that he was an intruder. Photo: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool

When a white Dallas police officer who killed an innocent black man in his own living room was sent off to prison this week with a hug from the victim’s brother and the black judge on the case, some saw it as a moment of amazing grace and redemption.

Many black Americans, though, saw something all too familiar and were offended.

Some saw the rush to forgive as a rush to forget racial violence. They argued that the gesture of forgiveness took the focus off the crime and made it all about the white woman. They complained, too, that it served to soothe white people’s conscience.

And they said that white America has practically come to expect black people to forgive when violence is done to them. Too often, they said, the public acts as if black people are not entitled to express anger, even when there is ample reason to be upset.

“Very few communities in our nation have had to suffer as much as black people, who have also been robbed of the opportunity to emote from that experience,” said the Rev. Michael Waters, pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dallas who has pushed for police reform in the city.

“It’s about removing from black people the agency of their anger, suggesting that we don’t have a right to righteous indignation, that it is somehow unacceptable for Christian black people to tap into their frustration at a death-dealing system that has caused them to bury generations of their sons and daughters,” he continued. “I think that’s sinful.”

For many, the scene during Amber Guyger’s sentencing for murder recalled the extraordinary forbearance shown after nine black worshippers were shot to death at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a racist young white man, Dylann Roof, in 2015. Within days, several relatives of the victims expressed their forgiveness for Roof and were widely praised across the U.S. for doing so.

The Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother, Ethel Lee Lance, was killed in the attack, was not among those who immediately forgave the killer.

“It always seems like black people are given that heavy task of being able to forgive,” Risher said. The tendency to forgive, she said, is “part of a generational, DNA strand we have as black people,” a legacy of slavery: “For us to be able to live some kind of a decent existence and not carry rage and anger, we get to that point of having to forgive.”

Activists have complained, too, that when a black person is killed by police, political leaders almost always plead for calm from the black community.

“I stated a long time ago that if you’re more concerned about potential unrest than you are about potential injustice, that’s problematic,” Waters said.

Many black Americans welcomed the rare guilty verdict in Guyger’s trial this week. The officer, who was fired soon after the shooting, said she mistakenly walked into Botham Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, and opened fire on what she thought was a burglar. The 26-year-old accountant was sitting there eating ice cream.

The trial and the sentencing featured Guyger’s tearful testimony, along with the disclosure she sent several offensive text messages about black people, and black character witnesses such as Guyger’s former colleague Cathy Odhiambo, who called the ex-officer “the sweetest person.”

But it was the sentencing, where Guyger got 10 years in prison Wednesday, that was the most striking. Jean’s brother Brandt forgave her in the courtroom and hugged her. Then Judge Tammy Kemp came down from the bench and gave the convicted killer an embrace, too, along with a Bible to take with her to prison.

Some black observers said that was too much and that anger is an appropriate response. Among them was activist Bree Newsome, who climbed a pole to take down a Confederate flag after the Charleston shootings.

“I have a right to feel how I feel as a black person in this country, knowing that I could be the next hashtag that launches a protest,” she said.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


7 Comments
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This article is trying to stoke racial tensions. It is in the media’s interest to create a racism narrative in the US.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

It also sounds to me like a blatant attempt to stoke racial tensions. I don't deny that some individual people have turned this into a race thing and always will if they see two people of different races in any news item. But the article is laced with words such as "many" and "some" and it just smacks of trying to inflate something that barely exists.

she sent several offensive text messages about black people

Probably about as offensive toward Black people as the rap music I listen to by 50 Cent. But no quotes so I can't judge.

About the most credible allegation of a racial motive I heard was the supposition that she had a thing for him because he was Black but he either turned her down or dumped her so she murdered him.

But if I am going to cry racism its her paltry 10 year sentence for this murder. But that racism pales in comparison to the effect of her being female and a cop to explain that short sentence. In fact, all told, him Black, her a White female cop, its a miracle she was found guilty of murder in America. Not racism, but America's real problems right now are adoration for cops and soldiers despite all the evidence they should be scorned, and free passes for females with tears.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ah, the old black vs white thing. I forget about that until I read about it in the US news.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Some black observers said that was too much and that anger is an appropriate response. Among them was activist Bree Newsome, who climbed a pole to take down a Confederate flag after the Charleston shootings.

“I have a right to feel how I feel as a black person in this country, knowing that I could be the next hashtag that launches a protest,” she said.

Be careful of activists. They make a living from strife and dissatisfaction. I guess that the woman must have shown genuine and sincere remorse for the brother to forgive her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Forgiveness, not in the sense that her sentence was commuted, but rather that the victim's brother let go of his anger toward her. Bless him. It must have been extremely difficult for him to do.

Is this not what the world needs more of?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The media tends to show extremes. A middle reaction isn't good for sensationalizing any story. "News" is entertainment and has been since at least 1980 with CNN starting.

Being angry is a normal response, but letting go of anger isn't for Amber, it is for Brandt. He will be much better off because of that. Many people don't learn that holding onto anger harms the person keeping it more than anyone else. The crime happen over a year ago, so time has helped. I held some anger for 15 yrs against a family member. It didn't help me in any way all those years.

Was the verdict just? Seems that is almost unanimous across the country. Guilty.

Was the 10 yr sentence just? IMHO, it isn't out of line, but killing an unarmed man, sitting/laying in his own house should have a longer sentence. 20 yrs feels too long, assuming zero malice. 10 yrs, not long enough.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@theFu

Being angry is a normal response, but letting go of anger isn't for Amber, it is for Brandt. He will be much better off because of that. Many people don't learn that holding onto anger harms the person keeping it more than anyone else. The crime happen over a year ago, so time has helped. I held some anger for 15 yrs against a family member. It didn't help me in any way all those years.

Well said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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