I believe the concept of race is patently stupid as I have written about many times. However, in a society where it has legal consequences, it cannot be ignored. As a black man, what I saw in the Dallas court was disturbing.
Is a black man ever deserving of compassion?
To be clear, I believe in showing compassion to all those deserving of it. Moreover, for those who have never known compassion I believe that many times they act out because of the lack thereof. The first act of compassion to those can change the trajectory of their lives when they are made to know they matter irrespective of their bleak past.
Too often though we seek to give compassion to those performing an act or to those otherwise undeserving instead of to those who really need it and are deserving. In my humble opinion, Amber Guyger, the cop who murdered Botham Jean was underserving as she performed in the act of her life.
The brother of the man she murdered hugged and forgave her. That is understandable from a man of his faith in a personal moment not of compassion but as a tenet of the preachings of his faith. That the judge was in a what seemed to be “who can show this murdering cop” the most compassion was appalling especially given the racist texts she had on her phone.
Most importantly one should note that cops, in general, are more often than not trigger-happy in addressing black men and other people of color. These law enforcement professionals do not need compassion, they need training to temper their racist proclivities or another profession where one does not have to worry that they will be murdered by them even in the sanctity of their home.
The author of the piece below explains part of my sentiment not only as a black man but as one who thinks our society uses race as a tool, better than I could.
Dear White People: About Botham Jean, Forgiveness, Justice, and Cheap Grace | Fixin To Preach
Forgiveness without repentance is what theologian Dietrich Bonhoefer, quoting 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 the murder of Botham Jean cheap grace lets us white people maintain our sense of innocence and goodness without first facing up to the role we all play, knowingly or not, in maintaining systemic racism. In this case it allows us to avoid looking at the particularly brutal history of black men and white women. We don’t have to think about the thousands of lynchings, unjust crucifixions, that happened in our country due to black men being unjustly accused of raping white women. We don’t have to think about the way in which white women to this day are seen as fragile and innocent (particularly if they are or make themselves blond) while black men are perceived as threatening and dangerous even when they are in their own homes eating ice cream. In other words we do not need to see let alone repent of our sins. But is that the gospel? Is that grace?
I say no. Let’s look at the “father forgive them” scenario again. Jesus of Nazareth who lived as an oppressed Jew under Roman occupation is, like many before him, being crucified as an enemy of state. (Side note- All of you chomping at the bit to inform me that Jesus’s crucifixion/lynching was “not political” because he was “dying for our sins” need to hold off until you read some of my upcoming posts about the racist roots of Anselmian substitutionary atonement theory. All of you who likewise want to blame “the Jews” need a lesson in the history of Christian anti-Semitism. All of you who similarly want to say “we are all equally guilty as sinners regardless of race” need to read a history book. Have I covered all the loopholes? If not I will get back to them. Today we are talking history.) So Jesus has been persecuted by Romans all of his life for preaching good news for the impoverished and oppressed people of Rome now hangs on one of thousands of crosses (which Dr. James Cone rightly identified as lynching trees) designed to support Roman supremacy. Notice that in every one of the passion narratives he has very little to say to his oppressors. At this point he is done talking to them. Notice also that Jesus does not forgive them. He asks God to do so. Notice furthermore that he essentially writes them off as ignorant “for they know not what they do.”
Is that what we, as white citizens of a white supremacist nation want for ourselves? Will we be satisfied by a cheap grace that comes from being written off as ignorant? Will that restore the humanity we have lost to the false and demonic systems of racism and white supremacy? Will enforced (and it is enforced) forgiveness coming from black victims of racist violence be enough to save our souls?