Guyger trial: Was forgiveness deserved?
“It was one of the most Christlike acts we’d ever witnessed,” said David French in NationalReview.com. Last week, Brandt Jean, 18, descended the witness stand in a Dallas courtroom and embraced the white former Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, who’d been convicted of murder for fatally shooting Brandt’s unarmed brother Botham, an accountant and black immigrant from St. Lucia. At the trial, Guyger testified that she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment instead of her own and fired her service weapon when she took him for an intruder. “I love you as a person,” Brandt Jean told her, “and I don’t wish anything bad on you.” Afterward, a judge sentenced Guyger, 31, to 10 years in prison. What “a stunning testament to Jean’s faith,” said Kaylee McGhee in WashingtonExaminer.com. As a true Christian, he demonstrated forgiveness and grace “in a way few of us will ever see again.”
Let’s be honest here—the celebration of Jean’s “selfless act” came largely from “white America,” said Issac Bailey in CNN.com. Sen. Ted Cruz called it a “powerful example of Christian love & forgiveness,” while the Dallas Police Department said his embrace of Guyger represented “a spirit of forgiveness, faith, and trust.” That’s all true, but these sentiments rubbed me and many other black people “the wrong way,” because we know only too well there would be no forgiveness—or 10-year sentence—if a black man had entered a white woman’s apartment and shot her to death. It feels to us that Jean gave whites yet “another get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid any racial guilt.” There’s another reason white folks are applauding Jean so heartily, said Zak Cheney-Rice in NYMag.com. The alternative to black grace and forgiveness is black vengeance, which fills whites with “so much fear.” Their relief is palpable when we absolve them of the violence and oppression we black Americans have faced over centuries of wrongs, and still face today.
If whites had endured the brutality and injustice we have, said Kevin Aldridge in The Cincinnati Enquirer, “their response would not be so forgiving or nonviolent.” Because of that, some blacks understandably view Jean’s absolution of Guyger as undeserved. But hatred is a form of poison, and “I believe Brandt’s act freed him more than her.” That’s a life lesson for all of us, regardless of race. ■