By David Ireland, Special to the AFRO
The solution is twofold: holding the prejudiced and racially insensitive accountable and practicing forgiveness.
You may have heard of the recent story of two African American men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. They were merely sitting at a table waiting for a third party to join them, but because they had not made a purchase the manager accused them of trespassing and had them arrested. Other patrons saw right through the racial bias. This triggered a nationwide backlash against Starbucks. The charges were later dropped, but the damage was already done. Not only did the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, personally apologize to the two men, but he put his money where his mouth was. Shultz announced the closing of all 8,000 stores nationwide on May 29, 2018, for an all-day racial-bias training for their 175,000 workers. What can we learn from this? That we must hold people accountable for their actions. Now that the proper actions are in motion, we are able to forgive and continue to buy our lattes and frappuccinos at Starbucks.
This may be controversial, but we must remember that forgiveness isn’t letting prejudiced or racially insensitive people off the hook, it’s holding them accountable in the face of forgiving them.
- Hold the guilty party responsible.
You can only forgive people when you hold them responsible. Forgiveness is made possible when you assign blame to the person, group, or race that wronged you. Similarly, it’s important you acknowledge you’ve been wronged. Don’t sweep the injustice under the rug, ignoring the fact that it occurred.
- Recognize people aren’t God.
We’re all flawed, complicated, and broken in some way.
Because of our brokenness we hurt others. The baggage is the compilation of the hurts, setbacks, and pain we carry with us. Moral crimes of hatred and prejudice occur because we’re flawed people living in a broken culture. Recognizing that people, including you, are flawed helps you put the need to forgive others in perspective.
- Surrender your right to get even.
The wronged party must surrender his or her right to get even. That’s you. You can’t fantasize about ways to hurt your abuser.
Person-to-person forgiveness calls for you to abandon the right to revenge. That’s God’s responsibility. I’ve already tackled the false notion that forgiveness is the elimination of justice. This third ingredient in the formula of forgiveness has nothing to do with the topic of justice or its elimination. Surrendering the right to get even is simply saying: don’t seek to take vengeance into your own hands by doing something equally wrong or hurtful as a form of payback.
- Change your attitude toward the guilty party.
If you truly want to build a bridge across the rough waters of pain into a multicultural life, you must be willing to change your attitude toward the guilty party.
The whole world witnessed the principle of forgiveness at work when Dylann Roof, a White supremacist, viciously gunned down nine African Americans in June 2015 while they were in prayer at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. At the court hearing where Roof was being sentenced, Nadine Collier, whose mother, Ethel Lance, was killed, shared a powerful message.
Fueled by her strong Christian values, Nadine didn’t spew out rhetoric or hate filled words. Instead she said, “I forgive you.”
Forgiveness builds and rebuilds the bridge hate and prejudice have attempted to destroy. Reconciliation is not a spectator’s sport. You must get into the game by actively helping to build or rebuild the multicultural bridge in your world.
David Ireland is the lead pastor of Christ Church (http://christchurchusa.org/), a multi-site multiracial congregation in New Jersey. Ireland serves as a diversity consultant to the NBA and also leads chapel services for the New York Giants, New York Jets, and the U.S. Pentagon.