Apologetically Black


There’s a wonderful new term floating about: Unapologetically Black. I’ve been that way for a long time, but it’s nice to have a name for it. I’m not alone; there are a whole lot of Black folks living their Black lives unapologetically. And while there’s no one way to do that, one thing just doesn’t fit: Forgiveness.

I know the bible tells us so. The books of Matthew and Luke are replete with the idea. Even the Lord’s Prayer/Pater Noster — which everyone knows — admonishes us to forgive. But it also begs for deliverance from evil.

I can’t tell anyone how to grieve. I don’t know how I would deal with losing a loved one to racist violence. But I DO know I wouldn’t be offering any forgiveness. I’m sorry Black people, but we need to stop being apologetically Black.

For one thing, why forgive people who aren’t apologizing? A Confederate-flag waving racist guns down nine people in a church and their families forgive him. I have yet to hear him ask for forgiveness. Funny how that works — racists don’t ask for forgiveness, because they aren’t sorry. And yet we offer them forgiveness because somebody said we should. How apologetically Black of us.

So, where did this notion come from? Christianity, of course. And I realize I’ll make enemies with this, but consider the source. As late as 1800, most slaves weren’t even converted to Christianity. But when the Protestants said God didn’t need a middleman, Black folks jumped at the chance to set the record straight with Him about what was really happening down here.

By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the evangelists stopped opposing and started defending slavery. Told slaves they should obey massa. Because God said so. All of a sudden, Christianity was a thing — for massa. Slaveowners were converting slaves as fast as they could. Letting them come to their churches (because they knew better than let slaves do their own kind of interpretation). They couldn’t sit in the pews, but even way up there in the balcony, they could hear the Word — obey, endure and no matter how bad massa was, forgive.

As far as subjugation strategies go, I can’t think of a better one: Strip people of their humanity and replace the belief system that sustained them with a religious Simon-says:

  1. God says…some people are born masters and some people are born slaves.
  2. God says…the more hell you catch on earth while you’re alive, the more joy you’ll have in heaven once you’re dead. God said so.
  3. God says…but if you’re the slave and don’t forgive the master who doled out that hell — even if it kills you — you’ll never get to heaven.

Very wrong.

Highly effective.

Consider the source.

I don’t expect anyone to reconsider Christianity or question its convenient ‘truths’. But I think forgiveness is something you earn. Forgiveness is something you might need to beg for but, at the very least, should have to ask for. Forgiveness is something you get only if and after you stop doing whatever it is you need forgiveness for. Forgiveness is apologetic Blackness. It needs to stop.

2 thoughts on “Apologetically Black

  1. Hello Janet,

    Think of forgiveness as refusing to wait for or to expect another to clear your conscience for you. Sin defiles and violates everyone’s conscience. Peacemakers choose to get up, with the strength of God, and rise above sin, regardless of if they’re on the giving end or the receiving end of its many defiling violations. It’s a strength that doesn’t need anything or anyone to acknowledge it, reckon with it, or sustain it. It survives everything because it comes from Godly love. Forgiveness doesn’t create justice, however, a strong contingency of forgiven people wake up from the stupor of sin and begin working together for justice.


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