With all of the recent exposure to the very real and present issues that are affecting the black community, there has been a genuine willingness for people in the church to confront their biases. Faced with this many churches, leaders and Christians have chosen to speak out and be at the forefront of offering love and understanding to their black brother and sisters.
There has been a lot of attention to the evils and wrongdoings of the past and the current protests. However, greater understanding is needed as we begin to ask questions and heal not only from the past but from the present. That’s why constantly telling black Christians they need to forgive can be problematic. Here are a few short reasons why.
Asking black Christians to forgive when they point to current and past injustice makes the assumption that because they are frustrated and upset it means that they haven’t already forgiven. I for one grew up on many slavery stories and started learning about North American black history at a young age. I read heartbreaking stories but I also learned how to put them in perspective and use it as a catalyst for my own life decisions. Now as an adult who’s learned how to live in forgiveness but still sees weekly injustice I’ve had to balance and separate people from their behaviour. I know I’m not alone when I say how hurtful it is to have people you love and trust not acknowledge the truth and pain that you’ve had to live through- believing that It’s all in your head or that you have a chip on your shoulder. Why is it that I’m seen as having some kind of vendetta or a chip on my shoulder because I voice real pain? Is it because I’m black that my pain is not seen as relevant? That alone is something that we as black people have to navigate daily. Imagine pointing out a current injustice and being told that forgiveness was the key. The key to what? To me feeling better? To the world changing? Do we have this approach with other people groups that have been brutalized and killed because of racism and prejudice?
Forgiveness is not one act.
It’s a movement and for most black people it’s a way of life- especially for black Christians. I don’t think you can be a black Christian and not know how to forgive. Sometimes as a black person in a church where you are a minority you are forced to deal with micro-aggressions from people that are regarded as your brother or sister in Christ.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean ignoring the status quo
It’s not giving up on the pursuit of change. The simple fact is -racism isn’t past us. We still have huge strides to make. Telling someone to forgive as a way of silencing their voice and action is wrong. Maybe for some, saying to forgive is another way of making black people feel like they are less spiritual because they are hurting or unsatisfied.
Forgiveness is a movement toward healing.
While it’s important to begin this catalyst we must remember that many of us are still in the process of being healed. Misunderstanding and macro-aggressions act essentially as wound re-openers. Asking me to forgive is a micro-aggression. Just to be clear I’m not against forgiving. I’m just saying that forgiveness is personal and it’s wrong to assume when you speak to someone that this is the first step they need to hear from you. It makes gross assumptions.
Don’t treat me like a child.
Slavery was characterized by the infantilization of black people and continues today in many ways. I can think for myself and the idea that I don’t know what’s best for me is an idea that came from slavery. Respect my intellect, thoughts, and process. Believe what I tell you I’ve seen and experienced. Stop trying to tell me I need to let it go when it’s still happening.
To all the amazing church leaders that are listening and leading from the front please continue to fight for and with us. We need more of this and prayer that people will be able to allow their hearts to be exposed to the truth.