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.

My Unsolicited Thoughts

I go between wanting everything to burn down and taking time to engage with interested parties regarding America’s racism problem. Obviously, racism isn’t special to America, but it is where I live so it is where most of my focus is; it is where I have these experiences.

One of my favorite authors is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie she has said a lot of things I love, one of them being, “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.” It’s strong language, but it is something to reflect on as you are engaging in the conversation surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement and race relations. I do appreciate people who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to participate, to be called in/ called out, to get it wrong, to learn, and to do and be better. Regardless of the color of your skin you are bound to make mistakes and it can sting to be called out, but you will survive it, I did.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit interesting to suddenly have so many friends and strangers want to engage in this conversation. But I think a lot of people can point to an event that opened their eyes to how minority groups are mistreated in this country and some folks are still fast asleep, but it doesn’t mean they are immune to it being brought up. Hopefully the tough conversations are still happening.

I’ve been in a weird place mentally the past two weeks.

I want to scream. I want to cry (I’ve done this a few times already). I want to delete all social media accounts and live in a bubble of blissful ignorance. I want it all to disappear: the injustice, the debates on whether or not Black lives do matter, the focus on miniscule things, and the semantics some like to throw into the mix.

Our world feels surreal right now. We’re still in a pandemic with Coronavirus and somehow that knowledge hasn’t stopped injustices from occurring on a daily basis—this information can feel incredibly overwhelming, almost unbearable some days.

I haven’t bowed out of the work or conversation completely. I’m currently working on a project that will hopefully bring the voices of Black LDS women to more people because being Black is not monolithic and the voices of Black women are not heard often, let alone ones of Black LDS women. I’m hoping it will be a good experience for everyone. But if I don’t always want to engage in conversation I hope you can understand that I am probably just tired, but I also hope that it doesn’t hinder your desire to be involved and continue learning.

Who Will Stand Up for Black Women?

I recently wrote a guest blog post for The Exponent II talking about some of my encounters with white LDS women at different stages of my life, sharing some of the racist comments they have said to me. I went on to share the post with friends and some of the women I mentioned. Most of them sincerely apologized and went on to express how the encounter changed them and propelled them to confront the racism that they hadn’t realized was a part of them and are now doing the work of anti-racism. One of them told me they hadn’t remembered saying what they did, but that IF they had offended or hurt me that they were sorry and that they are married to a black person now and will someday raise a black family. I told them that I remembered the encounter and shared the post with them because I wanted them to read it and I thanked them for doing so; they thanked me for sharing.

Fast forward a few hours later, I get a message from their black spouse stating that I had labeled their partner a racist and that they had come crying to them because they didn’t remember saying what they did and had apologized and apparently I didn’t accept the apology and so on and so forth.

So, in sharing my personal experience with this person they claimed that I was now labeling them a racist, didn’t accept their conditional apology, and they were married to a black person and speaking up about injustices, so somehow it meant that I could no longer share my traumatic experience that happened at their hands. It’s okay that they no longer remembered it because I remember it like happened yesterday. In fact, the night after it happened I told several people about it when I got home.

Who stands up for the black woman? When are we allowed to be upset because our character was attacked? Who has the black woman’s back?

Why do white women get away with doing and saying racist stuff while black men are murdered because of it? While black women are threatened and made to feel unsafe because of it? While black families are disrupted from having a fun family gathering because of it? While the worker can’t do so in peace because of it?

Being married to a black person, having a black in-law, having black children/grandchildren, even having black siblings does not absolve you from racist behavior and implicit biases. When you use the black person in your life as an excuse for your egregious behavior you are using our skin color as a defense for yourself, but when we are targeted and murdered because of our skin color you are silent and suddenly no longer comfortable with talking about race and race relations. Black bodies are only bothersome to you when we are seemingly inconveniencing your life. Black bodies are only okay with you when we are entertaining you, feeding you, humoring you, or guarding you from being labeled a racist.

I have learned that although many people are slow to defend and support black women we continue to rise and force our voices to be heard, because even when we are pushed out and dismissed you will still hear us.