We are Dylann Roof
I DO NOT forgive Dylann Roof, a racist terrorist whose name I hate saying or knowing. I have no immediate connection to what happened in Charleston, S.C., last week beyond my humanity and my blackness, but I do not foresee ever forgiving his crimes, and I am wholly at ease with that choice.
My unwillingness to forgive this man does not give him any kind of power. I am not filled with hate for this man because he is beneath my contempt. I do not believe in the death penalty so I don’t wish to see him dead. My lack of forgiveness serves as a reminder that there are some acts that are so terrible that we should recognize them as such. We should recognize them as beyond forgiving.
If we won’t forgive, even one individual, we can’t be forgiven. If there is an evil committed which can’t be forgiven, shouldn’t be forgiven, save the direct affront to God, then all of us are condemned. If we are to rise above evil we must forgive, and the way to understand how to do that is to realize that we are Dylann Roof. We are Ted Kaczynski. We are Aileen Wuornos. We all bear the responsibility of the worst of humanity. In this way, we are our brother’s keeper.
In doing this it does not mean we excuse the misdeed, or the wrong done. It does mean that we hold each other accountable under the power and authority of God because we have no power of our own over evil. This should be the primary reason Dylann Roof is being deprived of his freedom, not that simply “it is against the law”, were that we alone have such power over each other. Unforgiveness is the prison of our own making. Freedom is our aspiration, and that freedom avails itself only in Christ.
Ms. Gay errs in two respects. By her “unwillingness to forgive” even this one man she indeed empowers his evil. Ms. Gay goes on to state, “What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution. They want absolution from the racism that infects us all even though forgiveness cannot reconcile America’s racist sins.” Secondly, demanding forgiveness is a contradiction in terms, for forgiveness only comes by the willingness of the offended, and it is the only way we can expect to reconcile all of America’s sins.