Prompted by calls to ‘give grace’ to cop who killed George Floyd, black activists question the rush to forgive

Prompted by calls to ‘give grace’ to cop who killed George Floyd, black activists question the rush to forgive

Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

fiery protests in Minneapolis and other cities, including Denver, New York and St. Louis, Floyd’s ex-fiancée, Courteney Ross (who happens to be white), has requested that people forgive the officers.  ‘ data-reactid=”34″>But while the killing has led to collective trauma, outrage and fiery protests in Minneapolis and other cities, including Denver, New York and St. Louis, Floyd’s ex-fiancée, Courteney Ross (who happens to be white), has requested that people forgive the officers.  

Michael Porter Jr.’s tweeted follow-up, noting that prayers should go out to both Floyd’s family and the officers who were fired. ‘ data-reactid=”36″>Then came Denver Nuggets player Michael Porter Jr.’s tweeted follow-up, noting that prayers should go out to both Floyd’s family and the officers who were fired. 

Both appeals were met with backlash, with many critics seeing their calls for peace and prayers as potentially derailing the collective fight against police brutality.

toxic black forgiveness.” Although, for some, the rush to forgive can be understood in a more tempered way.’ data-reactid=”47″>The appeals are certainly not the first of their kind — and actually seem to fit into a long-running narrative that some observers have referred to as “toxic black forgiveness.” Although, for some, the rush to forgive can be understood in a more tempered way.

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People gather at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver on Friday to protest the killing of George Floyd. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

“It’s not my place to tell anyone how to grieve, but some of these public displays are upsetting, because justice oftentimes isn’t fully provided,” she notes, but adds that, still, she thinks that such forgiveness “is a coping strategy in response to racism.”

Lubin continues, “Recognizing the level of trauma that we as black people have experienced and continue to experience, we’ve developed different types of coping strategies. And one is to lean on forgiveness, and finding a way to move on in a way that doesn’t drive you insane.”

Church Massacre offered shooter Dylann Roof forgiveness after he murdered nine members of the clergy. “I forgive you. … You took something really precious from me,” said a tearful Nadine Collier, surviving daughter of Ethel Lance, at Roof’s bond hearing. “I will never talk to her ever again, I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.” Similarly, former minor league baseball star Chris Singleton, who lost his mother in the massacre, told USA Today, “I never thought I would be able to forgive somebody for murdering my mom,” and then noting that he did.

And then there was, of course, the infamous Rodney King speech, in 1992, by the black man whose beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department had sparked L.A. riots. “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?” he had said, speaking out about it again years later, just before he died of alcohol poisoning, about learning “to forgive.”’ data-reactid=”77″>Similarly, some families of victims of the 2015 Charleston Church Massacre offered shooter Dylann Roof forgiveness after he murdered nine members of the clergy. “I forgive you. … You took something really precious from me,” said a tearful Nadine Collier, surviving daughter of Ethel Lance, at Roof’s bond hearing. “I will never talk to her ever again, I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.” Similarly, former minor league baseball star Chris Singleton, who lost his mother in the massacre, told USA Today, “I never thought I would be able to forgive somebody for murdering my mom,” and then noting that he did.

And then there was, of course, the infamous Rodney King speech, in 1992, by the black man whose beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department had sparked L.A. riots. “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?” he had said, speaking out about it again years later, just before he died of alcohol poisoning, about learning “to forgive.”

Ashton Woods, co-founder and lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Houston, does find such forgiveness “toxic,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Toxic black forgiveness, like hugging the cop who killed your brother, is rooted in respectability politics and a desire to buy into the ‘white gaze’ and pretend that you are exempt from your blackness,” he says. “The truth is that we must stop viewing ourselves through the white gaze, which was beaten into us through slavery and institutional oppression.” ‘ data-reactid=”80″>Ashton Woods, co-founder and lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Houston, does find such forgiveness “toxic,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Toxic black forgiveness, like hugging the cop who killed your brother, is rooted in respectability politics and a desire to buy into the ‘white gaze’ and pretend that you are exempt from your blackness,” he says. “The truth is that we must stop viewing ourselves through the white gaze, which was beaten into us through slavery and institutional oppression.” 

Lubin believes that the desire to forgive or not forgive in these cases is deeply complex. “Sometimes, I think, in the rush to forgive, does that mean that we [also] don’t pursue the systemic and institutionalized changes that need to happen? When I hear ‘toxic black forgiveness,’ I think there’s a sense from some folks that [these displays] are also a forgiveness of a system that continues to brutalize us,” she says. “We don’t need to forgive that system. When you use the phrase, ‘I forgive you,’ it then individualizes what we know is a system issue, particularly with the behavior of law enforcement.”

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