SOCIAL INJUSTICE: God forgives... but should we?
YOUR MOTHER has just been murdered by an extreme white supremacist in a terror attack (though no-one can be bothered to call it a terror attack as the term ‘terrorism’ has been politically hijacked and reserved for Muslims). The exact same day you are on TV speaking coherently about how you “forgive” the murderer of your mother, because your faith teaches you to forgive.
If you’re able to do this I put it to you that you’re either in a questionable state of mind or you just didn’t really love your mother. Or perhaps you’re still too distressed to think properly. Or you’re a benevolent religious fundamentalist.
One thing is for sure though: you’re black.
I am a Christian. I rely heavily on my faith. I find comfort in my faith. I find salvation in my faith. I find intellect in my faith.
I am also a black person and all that that entails. And one thing that I don’t find in religion is liberation and overt protection from white supremacy.
Systematic white supremacy is real, it is present, it is an extreme threat to life, liberty and prosperity and it is increasingly brazen. And it is clear for any discerning person to see.
Instantly forgiving the agent of white supremacy for murdering my loved ones, because my religion teaches me so, is something I just would not be able to do. It would be impossible for me. To do so would be to betray my loved ones and collaborate with someone who waged catastrophe on us.
Sadly, this concept of instant forgiveness is something that only black people do. It is a phenomenon that appears to exist exclusively within us (and it is a courtesy that we don’t often afford to each other).
Would anyone ever ask white people who lost family members during the 9-11 attacks if they forgave the terrorists who killed their loved ones - the very day after they were killed? They’d look at you as if you were insane. No one forgave OJ Simpson (even though the court acquitted him). No one will ever forgive Sepp Blatter (even though he hasn’t even been charged with any crime).
This concept of religion-driven instant forgiveness is facilitating the continued exploitation of black people. It is nothing new. It is exactly how black people behaved during slavery, colonisation, apartheid and pretty much any other injustice.
The wealth derived from the enslavement of Africans still exists to this very day, as does the poverty. When slavery was abolished the slave owners were compensated to the tune of the modern equivalent of billions. In part because everyone knew there would be no peace if they were not compensated. Till this day black people, the enslaved, never received a copper penny. This concept of religion-driven instant forgiveness is one of the key reasons why this happened then and why reparations for slavery and colonisation haven’t been made till this day.
Case in point. During a 1996 debate on reparations in the House of Lords, Lucius Cary, the 15th Viscount Falkland had the following to say: “There is another reason why I do not absolutely go along with the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. I have worked for a long time in central and eastern Africa. We have the evidence of what has happened with President Mandela, and before him President Kenyatta. In my experience, the African people are immensely forgiving. They have forgiven the indignities that they suffered in recent times. To encourage the kind of attitude of fervent desire for reparation suggested here would go against the grain, certainly among Africans, because it is not in their nature.”
RIGHTEOUS ANGER: A protestor outside the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina
I really admire the Israelis. I wish black people were more like them. When the state of Israel was established in 1948 one of the very first things they did was go after the Nazis who waged terror on the Jews. Even now they are still digging people out of far flung corners of the earth and putting them on trial for their crimes.
When the Jews say “never again” they put muscle behind those words to make it clear that they are deadly serious. You have to admire that. You have to respect that. That is how you achieve liberation.
If people know you’re just going to turn the other cheek and forgive them, don’t be shocked when you’re repeatedly slapped.
Well-wishers far and wide praised the families of the slaughtered in Charleston for forgiving the terrorist in under a day. It was labelled a powerful act. In reality it was no such thing. It is not a powerful act to forgive the killer of, say, your mother on the day he did it. It is an act of supreme powerlessness. It is an act that we have done repeatedly over the last 500 years and it has made no difference.
It is an act that reinforces the status-quo. It is an act that is literally killing us.
Forgiveness? The African American man is the most imprisoned being on the planet – a feat that is decimating the African American family.
If forgiveness is so powerful why isn’t it afforded to black people, many of whom have been incarcerated for minor offences? As a spiritual man, I cannot ignore the fact that religion has been used as a means of pacifying and exploiting black people. This is an undeniable historical fact.
It may be time to consider at least some degree of fair-weather atheism. I’ll personally remain a firm believer and worshipper but I’ll need to pray for forgiveness for my trespasses (as I forgive those who trespass against me) in order for me to survive and thrive as a black person in a system of brazen white supremacy.
Religion is not God; it’s a route to God, a man-made means of developing a relationship with God. And God isn’t coming down from the sky to help us any time soon. The hands that God works with are ours.
NEVER FORGOTTEN: The nine victims of the shooting in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church