Rage Over Grace

After giving his victim impact statement at Amber Guyger’s sentencing, Botham Jean’s younger brother, Brandt, did one of the most spectacular things imaginable.

At least, that’s how it appeared to me. It never occurred to me that anyone would, could, see it otherwise. I was wrong.

Then, as now, many correctly pointed out the complications with glorifying that act of forgiveness: That it shouldn’t invalidate the value and necessity of black rage. That it shouldn’t be taken as representative of what an entire race of people feels or ought to feel. That their act of forgiveness did not then and does not now absolve the country from dealing with white supremacy or systemic racism.

What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution. They want absolution from the racism that infects us all even though forgiveness cannot reconcile America’s racist sins. They want absolution from their silence in the face of all manner of racism, great and small,” Roxane Gay wrote in the New York Times. “I, for one, am done forgiving.”

In an effort to not attack Brandt, per se, while attacking his act and those who found it “inspirational,” a distinction was drawn between the personal act, one that a human being named Brandt Jean needed to do for his own sake, and the political act, one that a black man should do when his brother was murdered by a white person.

I do not believe Brandt Jean was delusional to forgive Guyger….

What is delusional is to think reconciliation or forgiveness is the point, as Guyger’s attorney implied. Brandt Jean’s hug was not a political statement but a personal one, and it’s a distinction we need to make if we want to live in a world where his older brother is still alive. Because getting caught up in cheap absolution—an “inspiring” hug between a victim and a killer, meant to teach us how we ought to feel about cops who accidentally (or intentionally) kill the people they’re charged with protecting—is both dangerous and immoral. It distracts us from reckoning with the idea that a white police officer’s murder conviction came, in large part, because her victim was “perfect”: Jean was, quite literally, a choir boy. That the circumstances of his murder were so heinous—sudden and senseless, in his own home, eating a bowl of ice cream—that acquitting her would be a crime.

This was, without a doubt, a most unusual case, a most unusual murder. And so too was the grace shown by Brandt Jean. He wasn’t the political embodiment of black rage, but a human being who had his brother stolen from him forever. Whether others could show the grace he demonstrated is hard to say, but he did and it’s outrageous to take that from him to serve some ulterior political purpose.

Surely Roxane Gay’s feelings of rage, her refusal to forgive like the people of the Emanuel AME Church did to Dylan Roof, are as far from relevant as possible. Not that Gay has ever been reluctant to impose her views on others, but she’s never shown any inclination to let anything, facts, reality, gravity or metacognition, get in the way of believing her feelings matter more than anyone else’s. Weirdly, she gets to say so in the New York Times.

It never occurred to me that this was a racial issue, that it reflected some aspect of a war where it was wrong for a person to show the grace that so few are capable of showing. Why steal that from him? Why denigrate his act with your politics? Why draw these lines by racial identity when the lines by graciousness were already established.

That, no doubt, can be explained by my not being marginalized, so I can take for granted my inability to see race where it’s obvious to others. Some would explain this as privilege. I explain it as seeing Brandt Jean as a person rather than a black symbol. Don’t black people ever get to just be people? Isn’t that the point of this exercise in facing racism, to end it?

Nothing about Brandt’s act of forgiveness was an acquiescence in his brother’s murder, that murder wasn’t horrific, that the murder of black men by cops wasn’t outrageously bad and inexcusable. Nothing about Brandt’s act of grace was absolution to the white race for killing the black race. No white person, no cop, would see it and say, “Well great, now that this guy hugged his brother’s killer, let’s go kill us some black people because they don’t mind.”

Granted, Jean could not have been the more perfect black murder victim, which makes him the perfect black man for white people to feel terrible about. When Laquan McDonald got shot down in the street like a dog, he wasn’t the “good black man” that makes it easier for white people to empathize. Still, there was rage, even if McDonald wasn’t eating ice cream on the couch when he was murdered, as well there should have been. He was entitled to live just as much as Botham Jean. And you. And me.

But don’t seize Brandt Jean’s grace for your own political purposes. This moment was his, and only his, and not yours to twist to your cause. Brandt showed grace. Criticizing Brandt does not, not that you care. You are absolutely entitled to your black rage, and sadly, there is plenty of opportunity for it. But this wasn’t it. Or do I just see it that way because I’m a white guy?

26 thoughts on “Rage Over Grace

  1. Skink

    There you go again–a damn good job of putting nouns and verbs together. There’s something about Saturdays in this here Hotel.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Roxane Gay got it wrong.

    Mahatma Gandhi.

    “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

  3. Dan

    “It never occurred to me that this was a racial issue”

    It isn’t, for those who are reasonably in-touch with reality. But under critical race theory (and critical theory is what’s driving the woke train), literally everything is a racial issue. That’s why you see scholarly publications about, e.g., the racial effects of climate change.

    1. SHG Post author

      But are they wrong or are we? Even if critical race theory goes way overboard in finding race as the critical factor in everything, it doesn’t hold that it’s not a factor in anything.

      1. Elpey P.

        See also: white supremacists. They both agree on what the rules of the game should be, they just cheer for different teams.

        1. SHG Post author

          It never makes sense to me when anyone brings up white supremacists. They don’t claim the moral high ground, so they are exactly the racist scum they proclaim themselves to be. That’s their brand, so what’s the point?

          1. Elpey P.

            If they don’t claim the moral high ground, they are just trolls. The more sincere they are, the more likely they are to share the same philosophies of racial determinism and essentialism that the CRT crowd does. That’s not why the CRT crowd brings them up, of course, even as they prop up each other’s foundational premises.

      2. David

        Everyone seems to forget Brandt Jean, and Botham, are St. Lucian. The race issues in St. Lucia are much different than the US. Less than 1% of St. Lucians’ are white, and many are mixed. Race just isn’t the same big issue there like it is in USA.

          1. Casual Lurker

            “Our obsession with race is ours, not theirs.”

            Don’t be too sure about that.

            All during the trial the family’s *three* civil attorneys were making pronouncements to the news media from their alloted area in the courthouse. Considering they have no standing whatsoever in the criminal proceeding, I’m surprised they were so generously accommodated.

            After the verdict and sentencing, when the gag order was lifted, the mother, surrounded by her attorneys, made some prepared statements, appearing to blame the way law enforcement in the U.S. treat minorities. (The mother is a retired St. Lucian Govt. official, who was in NYC, visiting her daughter, at the time of the shooting).

            Whether or not this was intended to contaminate the jury pool, in anticipation of the civil action moving forward, I’ll leave up to others.

            However, according to Friday’s (10/04/19) Dallas Morning News,* their lawsuit against the city is likely a non-starter:

            “U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez recommended in August that the claims against the city be dismissed. The district judge [Barbara Lynn] will review the recommendation and objection, filed by the plaintiff’s attorney, and make a decision.”

            As an aside, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the brouhaha brewing, after the black judge, Tammy Kemp, gave Ms. Guyger her personal bible, after reading her chapter and verse (John 3:16).

            The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has already filed complaints in the matter.** The folks over at TheRoot are just beginning to gin-up the rage machine.

            *Dallas Morning News | Oct. 4, 2019
            “Dallas likely won’t be held liable in civil lawsuit over Guyger case, attorneys say”
            [Ed. Note: All links below deleted, and thanks for making more work for me for your self-indulgent crap.]

            **USA Today | Oct. 4, 2019
            “Atheist group says Texas Judge ‘crossed the line’ when she handed a Bible to Amber Guyger.

            Link solely for your convenience.

            1. SHG Post author

              Two quick points: First, you missed the point of my comment, which was generic and not concretely related to this case. Second, the rules are no links here, and I’m tired of having to clean up after you. No more links or I’m just trashing your comments. Enough.

  4. Guitardave

    A-men, Skink.
    I wonder if these idiots know how deeply fucked up they appear to the part of humanity that has a soul?…..

  5. Black Bellamy

    From the most popular comment on that article:

    ” what went down in that room betrayed a certain kind of madness; the fallout from a disfigured or distorted black personality/psyche.. the result of over 400 years of white evil/oppression/beatdown/brutality etc. Just my opinion.”

    I wish I could be part of an evil beatdown squad that taught people forgiveness. Like we could have this Purge, where all our social justice and religious and moral leaders go to sleep for 24 hours, and then me and my friends show the world what mercy and grace is. Over and over, in the most brutal and oppressive manner, until at last everyone is able to forgive in the approved manner. We would call ourselves the Fist of Mercy. The Benevolent Fist of Mercy. Yeah dog, the BFM is all up in your grill, showing you the way.

    Anyway, I digress. See that quote above? It’s not whether his forgiveness is personal or political. His forgiveness is because his brain is damaged.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      At the crudest level Roxane Gay needs “Black Rage”™ because without it she is irrelevant, so her anger at Brandt Jean is because she doesn’t want her rice bowl broken.
      While forgiving a murderer may be softhearted, it’s not Roxane Gay’s place to call it wrong just because it goes against critical race theory and the outrage industrial complex.

  6. Howl

    Every now and then somebody like Brandt Jean comes along and gives me hope. Then even more like Roxanne show up. But that’s OK, Roxanne, I forgive you.

    1. Guitardave

      Your a better man than me. H. I’ve come to see forgiveness as something of worth only for those who realize they were wrong. Giving it to the stupid and unrepentant is a waste..

      1. Howl

        Better man? I doubt it.
        As Scott mentioned, forgiving is often more for our own sake. With Roxanne, it’s easy, for she hasn’t done anything to me. And it’s not up to me to decide who is deserving of forgiveness, it’s only up to me whether I can let go of the anger, the rage. There is too much anger and rage, and I have no solution. All I can do is try not to feed it anymore. I’m still working on that.
        There are those who have wronged me, big time, and I still haven’t found it within myself to forgive. But I am trying to let go of the anger and hate. And it’s not like I’m the only one who has been wronged big time, for many, many more have experienced far worse. And more importantly, it’s not like I’ve never wronged anybody else.
        It took me 50 years to realize what a jerk I could be, and how that has effected others, especially those I love. I’m still working on that, too.
        I will ask forgiveness for making this comment about me, and for it’s rambling preachiness.
        Better man? Nah, just another schmuck muddling through.

  7. Rxc

    An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

    Resentment studies is a variation on eye for an eye.

  8. JorgXMcKie

    Roxane Gay has to protect her “brand” because without it she’d not only get no attention, she’d be living in the street.

  9. LTMG

    I’m unsure of RG’s preferred gender pronoun. Seems that RG dug itself deeper into the hole of irrelevance. I’ll thank the NYT for giving it a shovel to dig more.

  10. Warren

    Brandt Jeans words and action was an inspiration. Roxane Gay sounds like Hatfields and McCoys. That turned out well.

  11. Nigel Declan

    I guess the New York Times has decided that “No True Scotsman” is only fallacious when it applies to Scotsmen.

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