Friday, July 17, 2015


Ta-Nehisi Coates after members of victims' families attended Dylann Roof's bail hearing and said they forgave him:

On The Nightly Show, Reza Aslan made the same point regarding the Boston Marathon bombing:
“It was a big deal about the fact that -- despite the fact that [Roof] did not apologize -- that the victims were forgiving of him, it was splashed on the New York Times, everybody was talking about how amazing it was, that all this forgiveness for him.”

He continued: “Yet we’re having this argument, this debate about whether we should also forgive [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev, and I’m just trying to figure out exactly what the difference between the two of them are, and I can’t figure out the difference between them.”
So, are we going to forgive Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez for the Chattanooga shootings? You'd think we would, right? After all, Peggy Noonan told us that the words of forgiveness toward Dylann Roof "laid out the essence of Christianity, unedited and undiluted." Aren't we a predominantly Christian nation?

If words of forgiveness directed at Roof were what helped to get the Confederate battle flag removed from South Carolina's capitol grounds, I suppose I'm pleased -- but it offends me that we needed black people to completely put aside an entirely justifiable anger before we would do the decent thing with regard to that flag. Oh, but those family members were forgiving one of us, a white guy, so it was appropriate.

In other cases, we expect murder victims to be angry -- it's even okay if you're black and angry, as long as the murder that stoked your rage is one that stokes the majority culture's rage. (I'm thinking of the killing of Jamiel Shaw, a black teenager, by an undocumented immigrant in 2008; Donald Trump and Shaw's father, who's denounced U.S. immigration policy since the murder, now speak admiringly of each other.)

I'm not advocating forgiveness in any of these cases -- in a similar situation, I can't imagine that I'd forgive. But let's not pretend, as Americans, that we think forgiveness is the proper, Christian response to murder. We only seemed to think that in one case.


Anonymous said...

My question about this argument, though, which I've heard from a few people, is whether anybody actually called for the Charleston families to forgive Roof. I'm not aware of any such calls, but then again I'm not the most plugged in person around. Admiring people for doing something isn't the same as asking them to do it. It also seems to me not beyond the realm of possibility that some people could forgive ISIS, and not beyond the realm of possibility that other people could admire them for it. (I myself could forgive neither Roof nor ISIS, and my personal feeling is that the Charleston families who forgave Roof were wrong to do so, but what I feel is and should be irrelevant to them, nor would I wish to impose it on them.)

Professor Chaos said...

Lie many thing in America, forgiveness is only for white guys

Victor said...

What Prof Chaos said!

Anonymous said...

Steve. Steve, Steve. That's because "forgive" in the context of Charleston chiefly meant "didn't riot." That's why right wingers got all excited about the forgiving Christian black people. It was because they had Ferguson and Baltimore on the mind.

Philo Vaihinger said...

This moral gibberish is not even an issue for post-Christians, thank God.


Ken_L said...

It goes further, I think. If any of the families involved DID publicly forgive Abdulazeez, right wingers would openly sneer at them and one of National Review's regulars would write an earnest post bemoaning the loss of the righteous anger that fuelled American Exceptionalism.

Steve M. said...

Absolutely, Ken.

Unsalted Sinner said...

This quote from the extract from Coates' book in The Atlantic stayed with me:

"Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the civil-rights movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?"

It's interesting, isn't it? No one ever criticizes George Washington for failing to practice non-violence. That expectation is reserved for non-whites.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Some of you may remember the milk man who killed 5 Amish girls in 2007. The girls' families forgave and even went to the killer's funeral where they hugged the killer's wife. There are some people whose faith in God and God's grace is so profound that they are capable of sincerely forgiving atrocities. Perhaps they see a better world coming. I can't say what motivates them because I'm not one of them. I envy them, in fact.

Ta-Nahesi Coates has made his mark by lashing out. Perhaps there's a place for that in our dialog about race, but I've heard he banishes people who don't toe the line in comments on his blog. His tactics will get Coates ahead, but will it gain ground against imbedded racism? Dr. King and Gandhi didn't think so.