How to Forgive a Racist

The other day I Googled, “How to forgive a racist person”. It didn’t come up with anything particularly helpful except for some articles about the history of white people expecting Black people to quickly and wholeheartedly forgive them, even when it meant the Black person’s loved one was killed as a result of their racism.

A few weeks ago after I shared on my Facebook page about the gaslighting and racism I experienced at the hands of a former mission president, I proceeded to get a message from another white male who served in the same mission who told me that, “he hoped I could find it in my heart to be kind”. He sent that message after seeing my post about the experience. Nowhere did he mention that he confronted the former mission president about his racist behavior.

God invited all of us to forgive and I do my best to do just that. God also asked us to repent. Forgiveness is not the only way forward, repentance is also a way forward and we have been asked to do both. When people are never confronted about their terrible behavior, they perceive it as acceptable and continue to participate in said behavior.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you will invite your loved ones to stop with the racism long before you ever approach the person at the receiving end about their need to forgive and make racists comfortable. And how exactly do you forgive a racist? That’s between you and God, not when people are rushing you to because they need to feel better about their deplorable behavior.

You’re the Real Racist and Other Lies

Being an outspoken Black woman brings a lot of interesting people out of the wood works and being an outspoken Black LDS woman brings a lot of angry people of my same faith into the open. The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can see the heightened racial tensions and expect people to keep quiet about it. Sure, staying quiet means probably less stress and less hate being directed at you, but staying quiet hasn’t served me well either, because it typically means letting disrespectful and hateful things fly. I know that I expect people who call me friend to be the same people to speak up in the circles they inhabit when something racist is said, otherwise they probably shouldn’t call me friend. It is a lie that staying quiet about social issues keeps the peace, the only people who think it is keeping the peace are those that don’t feel that they are impacted by whatever issue it may be.

Being a woman of faith means that “well meaning” people will use scriptures to gaslight you and tell you that they basically don’t care about what’s happening to those that look like you, essentially hiding their racism behind the word of God. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that in those same scriptures we’ve been commanded not to use the Lord’s name in vain, and to use His words to defend racist behavior is to do just that. Every life matters to the Lord, but He is also the same one that left the 99 to search for the one, and when the one is being targeted that is the one He is going after for a bit. It is a lie to use God’s words to malign people and their lived experiences.

I understand how hurtful it is to be called out for something that you thought was not a problem. Being an outspoken Nigerian-American brings a lot of opportunities for Black Americans to call you out when you misstep, and while it does initially hurt, it is a learning opportunity filled with a moment to reflect. So, while it is hurtful to be called out on your racist behavior, use it as an opportunity to do and be better so that people of color can exist and thrive safely in every space and system. It is a lie to tell someone they are the real racist just because you don’t like that they asked you to do and be better.

Trauma, My Old Friend

I remember the night I was almost killed like it was yesterday. Some of you have heard the story and some of you will have to wait a bit longer for it to be recounted, for now let’s talk about trauma, my old friend.

For about fourteen years I had the reoccurring nightmare about the aforementioned night. It was always the same thing–I would dream about exactly how things played out and then wake up in sweats, my heart pounding against my chest. I would quickly turn a light on while frantically looking around the room to make sure I was in a safe place. Once I was sure all was well, and I was not back in the same place the militants almost took my life, I would take deep breaths and try to calm myself down. I had those nightmares until I told my mother about them and she confirmed that the incident did indeed occur. I wasn’t just dreaming; I was reliving a traumatic event that happened when I was only six years old.

Through the course of my life trauma would appear in different forms and again I wasn’t always aware of what was going on until I would have nightmares or suddenly be extra cautious whenever I was on my own.

Unfortunately, the rise of phones with video recording abilities and social media has brought traumatic events onto the newsfeed of platforms that used to be a place where you looked at cute photos of family and friends and cat videos that I didn’t enjoy, because I didn’t and still don’t like cats (sorry, cat lovers). In recent times social media platforms have felt more like one traumatic event after another, namely with Black people getting murdered at the hands of racists on a mission. Even as I have attempted to avoid those videos, the news articles are filled with images that are disturbing and become seared into the mind. Seeing these images over and over and over again is replaying a traumatic even over and over and over again, and it is not healthy.

While I understand the importance of those videos being shot, it is literally causing Black people to relive trauma and when someone that looks like you is getting murdered it is human nature to think about yourself and your loved ones being the ones possibly in that situation, and that amplifies the trauma. It seems as though as soon as you think you’re done processing one traumatic event; another one is being reported about and it seems to be never-ending.

I hope that if you’re a Black person reading this that you will take care of your mental health by reducing the news that you take in. I also hope that you will reach out to the people you trust when you are overwhelmed. And if you’re a white person reading this, be more cognizant of the images and videos you share and who may be exposed to them. While it is important to keep up with the news and share information that could be imperative, it is not always necessary to share or re-share every piece that you find. And if you absolutely need to share, maybe include information at the top of the post regarding the topic at hand so that people can choose whether or not to continue reading or watching. I’ve seen it done with mentions of sexual harassment and other heavy topics, it needs to be done for acts of racism, as well.

Trauma may be an old friend of mine, but it is not necessarily one that I like being acquainted with.