Yesterday, during a press conference discussing the murder charges filed against former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing, a reporter asked Samuel DuBose’s mom if she would forgive Tensing for fatally shooting her son in the head.
“Do you see it in your heart to forgive this officer whether he’s convicted or not?” a man asked Audrey DuBose after she gave an emotional statement about her son’s tragic demise.
Not surprisingly, she said yes.
“If he asks for forgiveness…oh yeah, I can forgive him. I can forgive anybody,” DuBose said after opening the press conference citing Psalm 93. “God forgave us.”
Although I don’t knock DuBose’s strong faith and her ability to forgive the man accused of killing her son, I also know that couldn’t and wouldn’t be me.
After Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by Darren Wilson, the media seemed more concerned by a burned down corner store than the fact that Brown’s body laid in the street, bleeding, for hours. While reporters and city officials wrung their hands about looted shops and pressed Brown’s family to denounce the uprising, I wrote that if my unarmed son was gunned down the last thing on my mind would be peace.
This scene has continued to repeat itself for the past year. An unarmed Black person is killed by police and instead of wondering if law enforcement officers are out of control, the media presses the victim’s family to be peaceful, to discourage violence, and to forgive.
Why is this reporter asking #SamDubose's mother if she'll forgive the man who killed her son???? WHY?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!
— britni danielle (@BritniDWrites) July 29, 2015
When asked if she could forgive the officer who killer her daughter Rekia Boyd, Angela Helton refused to give in to the pressure to turn the other cheek.
“I don’t forgive him,” Helton said. “I will never forgive him.”
Whether a victim’s family chooses to forgive the person responsible for taking their loved once’s life is entirely up to them. However, constantly bombarding families with questions about if they will absolve the killer feels cruel, particularly when they’re still in the early stages of grief.
Though I loathe the idea of asking Black folks if they’ll turn the other cheek, I understand why reporters continue to do it.
Because of our history in America, Black people aren’t given space to be publicly angry, because when we are, it feeds into deep-seated stereotypes about our supposed animalistic nature. Far too often, expressing ourselves forcefully is categorized as being “angry” and “combative;” calling people out on their inconsistencies is seen as an “attack;” flooding the streets in protest is regularly called a riot. In America, Black folks are supposed to swallow everyday microaggressions, or even not-so-subtle racism, because pointing them out means we’re too obsessed with race and just want to complain.
Here’s the thing: this nation should be grateful Black folks are so forgiving. Because if we really refused to absolve this country of all of the sins committed against us over the past 400 years, America as we know it wouldn’t exist.