I am being told to forgive. I am told that I need to reach across the aisle, shake hands, put my political differences aside, and join in becoming one country again.
I am told this is very important because I, as a Black person, not only had to use my vote to save this country from the racists yet again, but my forgiveness of those very same racists is also necessary in order for the country to move back to a place that has only ever worked so very hard to exclude me.
When I hear this demand for my forgiveness, I think about the more than 70 million Americans who voted for a white supremacist that not only let nearly a quarter of a million of his own people die of COVID-19, and not only continues to do nothing to stop the pandemic, but is actively preventing the president-elect from solidifying his plans to fight the coronavirus.
Some people must really think this is a game. They must really think it’s some kind of better-luck-next-time best-of-three. But it’s not. This is a cold civil war getting hotter every minute. Friends have been lost, families have been broken, and a government has almost been cleaved in two. This just ain’t a hug-it-out-and-I’ll-see-you-in-four-years kind of thing. This is a must-stop-now-and-can’t-ever-happen-again kind of thing. But more than 70 million American voters don’t ever want it to stop. And if it does, they can’t wait for it to happen again.
92% of republicans voted for the president in 2016. Despite the efforts of groups like the Lincoln Project, Never-Trumpers, and other “moderate republicans” 93% of republicans voted for him in 2020. Republicans had gains in state houses across the country, which means they’ll be redrawing district maps, gerrymandering more than ever. Your racist friend/family member/coworker may have shut up at some point over the last four years, but they sure didn’t change their minds.
Personally, I do believe in forgiveness, but that is not really what is being asked of me. Genuine forgiveness first requires someone to want it. It involves a person understanding that they were wrong, wanting to make it right and prevent further wrongs. That is not what’s happening here. Republicans do not think they were wrong. They think that they’re right. Not only that, but that they are the ones who have been wronged and they will do whatever it takes to make it right.
In the end, while I am being told that I must forgive, what they actually want is deference. I am not only being asked to apologize to my attacker while he continues to attack me, but grant him permission to carry on at his will. The thing is, while I do believe in forgiveness, I believe in self-preservation first. So, the next time you ask for my forgiveness, like the man said, Try Jesus, not me.
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