Writer: Forgiveness not the only response to racism

Fusion’s Collier Meyerson has seen the video of Asma Jama forgiving the woman who smashed a beer mug into her face at an Applebee’s in Coon Rapids, and the reporter, who covers race, doesn’t want any misinterpretation.

“It’s compelling and powerful to watch a black woman stare down the barrel of violent racism and say, ‘I forgive you,’” she writes today.

What if she hadn’t?

Meyerson says she “unnerved” by the “blanket celebration” of black people forgiving their white tormentors.

Days after Dylann Roof killed Nadine Collier’s mother and eight others at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, Collier addressed Roof, 21 at the time, and said, “I forgive you.” She told him he took “something very precious away” from her that she won’t ever get back. “I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.…You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you,” she said.

Collier was celebrated by magazines and talking heads for her astounding ability to forgive Roof for his heinous crime.

Black rage, however, is nearly always condemned. Images of angry young black men and women are viewed as unacceptable. Cable news videos from Baltimore and Ferguson, where young black people scream in fury with handkerchiefs tied across their faces, is rarely celebrated. Neither is the civil unrest that comes with it, where stores and cop cars burn up in flames and people run through the streets, anger rushing through their veins. Those moments are hardly ever presented in my Facebook feed as acceptable and appropriate reactions to racism. These acts are seen, by most, as unforgivable, inappropriate, and unjustifiable.

She says “smashing mugs in our faces is unforgivable, inappropriate, and unjustifiable,” and anger over it is worth celebrating, too. There aren’t enough stories of white redemption to “ignore and disengage from black rage,” she writes.

  • Mike Worcester

    //What if she hadn’t?

    A part of me says that a whole lot of us, if we had had a beer mug smashed in our face, would have said, “I wouldn’t have forgiven her either”. I’ll leave it up to other readers to decide if that is good or bad.

    • MikeB

      It was the adult thing to do and many could learn from this.

      However, if the roles were reversed I have zero doubt that the social media outrage machine would have been on fire, and that Asma Jama would see time behind bars.

  • wjc

    From http://www.fox9.com/news/224732393-story

    “Burchard-Risch declined to say anything herself. No statement. No apology. No explanation.”

    “She was sentenced to six months in jail followed by up to five years of probation. The judge also handed down a 37-month prison sentence that she does not have to serve, but hangs over her head if she violates any of the terms of her supervision”

    I guess Jama’s attacker will have at least several months to consider the issues. I think forgiveness would come more easily for me if my attacker showed at least a morsel of regret.

    • RBHolb

      The stories about her guilty plea made it sound like she didn’t seem to take the proceedings very seriously. Answering “yep” when the judge asks whether you assaulted someone because of their national origin, race or religion is not the right way to show regret.

  • Zachary

    Forgiveness is still the best response to all forms of wrong. It’s not the easiest, nor is it always our first choice or instinct, but it still remains the best. Forgiveness is not an “approval” or a “no charges should be filed”, against wrongs, it is just that – Forgiveness.

    I could quote scripture here (any scripture, really, they all have a lot to say on forgiveness), but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, A Happy New Year, Festivus, or whatever. If I have wronged or missed you, I’m sorry.

    Peace, NewsCutters!

  • Barton

    I’m always stuck on this idea of “forgiveness” from victims. Why do we even think its appropriate to expect that victims forgive their attackers? Doesn’t “forgiveness” only make what that person did acceptable in a “no, its fine” sort of way? And at the same time, maybe this is exactly what the victim needs to work through what happened to them.

    So I guess I only have more questions and no answers. As with most important things in life.

    • RBHolb

      I think of forgiveness as being mostly for the benefit of the person doing the forgiveness. It can be a way of moving past the wrong done to them, and not letting someone else’s bad actions control or define your life.

      That said, I think it is entirely up to the victim to decide whether to forgive. You are right that we have come to expect this, but expecting it denies the legitimacy of anger, a fundamentally human emotion.

    • Jay T. Berken

      “I’m always stuck on this idea of “forgiveness” from victims.”

      From what I have read about “forgiveness” is not about saying “no, its fine”, but more about yourself as the victim moving on. If you hold that grudge and keep being a victim to what was done to you, you just become more bitter. You are taking away your own life by wanting more…which will never come. Forgive and try to cope. Let that person deal with their action and sh!t.

      Asma is a stronger person than me.