By News

The brutal slaughter of nine Black people in Charleston, S.C., inside Emanuel AME Church has inspired talk of forgiveness, the enduring power of love over hate and God wanting us to forgive and move on.

It is lamentable that these expressions are reserved for moments when those who have murdered us for centuries perpetuate heinous crimes against us and we cling to the mis-teaching of scripture offered to us by our former slavemasters and their children.

The killings of   Pastor Clementa Pinckney, who left to mourn a wife and two daughters, and the others in Emanuel AME Church–the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; library worker Cynthia Hurd; speech therapist Sharonda Singleton, who was also a reverend at Emanuel AME Church; Myra Thompson, Bible study teacher; Tywanza Sanders, 26, who apparently died trying to save his aunt, Susie Jackson; the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, a school administrator and mother of four daughters; Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the Charleston church and a grandmother; and Ethel Lance, 70, a retiree.


President Obama delivered the eulogy for Rev. Pinckney noting the pastor was a “preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God–Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.”

“People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith,” said the president, who cautioned against going back to business as usual to avoid uncomfortable racial truths and embracing symbolic gestures in coming days.

The president’s words were touching on a particular level. But there is an insidious disease which infects America, a disease which says Black lives don’t matter and after crying and wailing is done, nothing of substance will be done.

So the talk turns to open minds and open hearts but not to the single, solitary thing that helps to bring healing and that thing is justice.

To forgive because we have been taught, trained and conditioned to forgive our former slavemasters, while slaughtering one another, is a false forgiveness. It is really not forgiveness at all, but is a denial of reality borne of weakness and the unwillingness to confront an open and hidden, persistent, deadly enemy. An enemy who cares nothing for rules of engagement, whether the victims of vicious assaults are male or female, young or old, guilty or innocent.

Recent words about forgiveness are devoid of describing the place that justice plays in bringing about healing and true forgiveness. The heart of the aggrieved wasn’t meant to suffer the stress of death and loss without a balm and that balm is the doing of justice.

In the Bible and in the Holy Qur’an, the law is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (God) says in retaliation there is life for you. Neither of these divine injunctions are meant to put us on a path of perpetual war but are meant to bring us into the reality of matters of life and death. The understanding of these realities should temper our actions as we understand the ultimate price that will be paid for the unjust taking of any life. Knowing that only God Himself can give life and that the law of justice will be executed should make us more circumspect, more cautious and more willing to find a solution other than total annihilation of one another.

And when the law of God is violated and the taking of life is not in accord with that law, the author of life has ordered that a life be surrendered for the life taken. The taking of life, within an unbiased and honest system of justice, is recognition of how grave the wrong that was committed. It is a recognition that the taking of a single life is as if all lives had been taken and the saving of one life as if all lives had been saved. That speaks to the interconnectedness of the human family and the value placed on all lives.

The taking of life does not bring back the one unjustly slain but it says to those left behind, the ultimate price must and will be paid. The payment of that price opens the way for a difficult healing process that may result in forgiveness because justice has been done.

But talk of justice and accountability are discarded and disregarded when we lose our lives at the hands of law enforcement and White people who are real citizens of this country. So a judge charged with deciding bail for 21-year-old accused killer Dylann Roof can talk about the pain of the alleged killer’s family before the victims’ bodies are cold and those charged with finding and bringing a murderer back for justice can make sure he enjoys a sandwich, fries and a drink from Burger King.

None of this is justice and none of this can result in peace.

But there is one who holds all power and he has vowed to avenge those unjustly slain and, in particular, has promised to destroy nations for the Black man and woman of America–we are that valuable to the Divine Supreme Being.

So a fearful and mis-educated people may forgive their killers, but God has promised that he will not–and that is justice. What else could the murder of “Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people” demand?