Murder, Justice, and Biblical Psychobabble

The murder of Botham Jean and the subsequent trial and conviction of Amber Guyger definitely has its share of conflicting narratives. First there was the murder itself. Then there was the cover up. Then there was the cover up of the cover up.

So many of my family and friends held our breaths trying to determine how the trial would turn out. In the words of Snoop Dogg, “Murder was the case,” was an easy call. What else would you call walking into a man’s apartment and shooting him dead while he was chilling in his drawers minding his own business? We know that common sense ain’t always common. Especially when it comes to Black people and the police.

I’m in an ongoing text group with people from the East to the West Coast. Two in particular live in Dallas. Minutes after the verdict, the Dallas guys quickly transitioned to the sentencing. The immediate suspicion was the amount of years Guyger received would be way closer to the minimum 5 year range than the maximum 99 years within the sentencing guidelines. It matched my suspicions after the September 11 attacks. When the second plane hit World Trade Center, I calmly got up from my office in St. Louis, went to my car and drove to the gas station to fill up. Sure our nation was under a terrorist attack. Still, I knew many would turn this attack into a money making opportunity. Sure enough, by the time I got off work many stations had gone from an average of $1.23 per gallon to upwards of $5.00.  America had trained me well. These men obviously received the same training. We understand the fact that most of the time cops get away with doing dirt to Black folk.

When the sentence of 10 years was revealed, the thoughts I and many of my brethren felt was familiar. “Dammit! One step forward two steps backwards!” We got the right verdict, but the jury (who were encouraged they could focus on a lighter sentence) made it so Officer Guyger received more compassion than her victim.

Immediately the media focused on the love showered upon Guyger by the brother of Botham Jean, Brandt, as well as the judge in the case Tammy Kemp. Photos of Jean and Kemp embracing a sobbing Guyger became a weird symbol of grace and mercy for a cold blooded murder in the spaces of what was supposed to be a righteous judgment. As those photos circulated the internet, reactions were strong. Many are bewildered at how a young man who lost his brother in a brutal and unjust shooting can ask to hug the woman who is responsible for taking his life. These questions deserve answers.

The reason is simple. Christianity; specifically black people’s version of Christianity. The following statements are going to seem sweeping. Those that understand nuance understand the context of sweeping terms when something is generally true without taking into account every single individual sample. Historically in America Christianity has had a dual sense of purpose and benefits. For White folk, ever since slavery, God, Jesus, the bible are all tools and symbols based in reinforcing their inherent belief that they are god’s chosen people on the earth. For Black folk, God, Jesus, the bible are tools symbolic of helping to survive being second class citizens on earth, waiting to receive the true citizenship and value they deserve in heaven. This was taught from the beginning on American soil. How else could one justify slavery and all the horrors that came with it in the first place? Slavery wasn’t just about forced labor, bloody violence, rape, splitting up of families, it was about a system of mental degradation and oppression. One wonders how you can have both the slave and enslaver share the same religion at the same time. The only way that’s possible is to emphasize a different form of core teachings as it relates to earthly vs. heavenly life. White folks taught Blacks, ‘Slaves obey your masters.’ They taught Blacks to accept; no EMBRACE their subservient place and endure whatever they had to endure. After all, the more meek, humble and docile you are, the better chance god will reward and let you into heaven where there would be no more slavery or violence forced upon you.  White folks never had to take on that perspective. They believed in receiving their benefits right here on earth as they lived. For enslavers, Jesus preserved the order. For slaves, Jesus would reward them in heaven for submissive and loving behavior towards the enslaver on earth. Black Christians spend their lives trying to get to heaven. White folk demand earth as its birthright. Heaven is a forgone conclusion.

In a way, Black folks embrace certain moral core principles of Christianity similar to how we believe in the moral core principles of The Constitution. It appears we believe in the ideas more than the ones who brought it and tout it the most. But those that gave us the constitution and to a large degree the bible never intended for Black folk to receive any of the benefits in the first place.

One key principle that black Christians embrace is that of forgiveness. We take seriously the principle that God will not forgive us unless we forgive others. As Brandt Jean took the stand to talk about how the murder of his brother affected him, he kept talking about how he hoped Guyger would receive Jesus. This is key for him because even as he attempts to grieve and process the loss of his loved one, he is told constantly to depend on his faith in god. While grappling with his pain, grief and anger, his faith tells him that god isn’t pleased with his anger. He must forgo it and give it to god. As a result there is a constant pressure or being pressed on two sides of harsh reality. On one side it’s watching this woman and her backers lie, cheat, and attempt to do everything in their power to escape justice. On the other, it’s Jesus looking down on him demanding he show compassion and mercy for the sake of his own soul. This isn’t unusual at all. When Dylan Roof took 9 Black lives at Mother Emmanuel Church, plenty of surviving members went out of their way to express forgiveness in tears and wailing to a man who detested the sight of them.  To be honest, I put myself in Brandt’s shoes. I was raised in the same kinds of churches he was. When I was his age I may have done the same thing.

Now contrast this to White people’s experiences, again they’re version of Jesus isn’t the same. So if the tables were turned, instead of touting grace and forgiveness looking to absolve the perpetrator of as much internal guilt as possible, they would simply lean in towards the calls of justice. “You reap what you sow. We have to be tough on crime and punish criminals harshly as a way to preserve order in society. The criminal must take personal responsibility for his actions. Where were his parents? Why are they as a people so violent? They must pay for what they’ve done.” This is the difference in the outlooks. Both sides were raised Christian. But Christianity and its emphasis in this area are polar opposites. Whites were never told to forgive Blacks for anything.

There are two basic camps among Black folk. One says, “I’m tired of Black folk doing all the damn forgiving toward Whites for the deadly shit they do. The other says, “You can’t tell Brandt Jean how to grieve. If he wants to hug his brother’s killer, then so be it.” I think the most important thing is to understand what is behind his motives and how he got there. The fact is, forgiveness is a personal decision and journey. Unfortunately, many of us feel we must display it publicly in order for it to be legitimate. I also believe we don’t really understand what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. In other words, it’s one thing to release someone from causing you pain and turning your grief into darkness. There are plenty of people I’ve had to forgive. But for some, the acts were so devious and damaging there is no way in hell we are going to be hugging it out. That is not the same as wishing harm on the person or seeking to ruin their lives. Forgiveness in this case is no less valuable or sound than Jean’s. In fact, it’s probably more sustainable.

Again, there was a time in my life I may have reacted the same way as Brandt. I grew up with his brand of faith. Now if someone took away my only sister, at worst the hounds of hell will be unleashed if I have anything to do with it. At the very least, I’m going to be like them White folks and be on the side of justice. But I digress.

What I cannot justify, however, is Judge Tammy Kemp’s behavior in also hugging the murderer in her courtroom. There is something to be said that the Fraternal Order of Police in Dallas support her. Take that how you like it. But it’s interesting that she chose to give Guyger a bible. In most cases if someone is about to do time, you give them a bible for comfort in a time of need. In this case, Guyger already received just about everything she needed. A dramatically short sentence, the forgiveness of the people she hurt in public, and oh this… she’s expected to appeal so who knows maybe the murder conviction is overturned altogether. Hell, according to the established rules of the game, she should have given the bible to Brandt.

 

Advertisements

She (Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love)

Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love;
One thing about receiving true love that I have found to be true is that we cannot experience it unless our hearts are truly and totally open to receiving it. This is generally a difficult thing to do because we naturally tend to self protect. Well, actually we don’t start out self protecting. If we are blessed to have loving relationships from the beginning at birth, certainly this infant is not shy at all about any form of self expression. The infant isn’t scared to be open about it’s needs and desires.  It’s only after rejection do we begin to put up defenses.
As we get older and experience life, disappointment, or betrayal we tend to develop as a survival tool the ability to open little cracks here and there of ourselves.  We learn what we are comfortable with exposing and during that process especially early on we stand ready with the proverbial STOP button when something doesn’t feel right about it.  Some things may hurt a little or piss us off. But the button kicks into gear with phrases like, “I knew this was going to happen.” This just adds another chink to the heart armor and take that suit to the next encounter.
Well, it is only when I take off my suit of armor do I receive this gift.  I must open myself up, my heart, my conscious.  And I leave nothing in the way of protection or survival.  I must trust her with my heart.  As life goes on I’ll learn how this looks as we experience new adventures giving us opportunities to develop character within our relationship.  I want the best intimacy that God/The Universe has to offer.  And though we are fully grown adults, full of love and experience… experience that I expect us to use in wisdom to help us grow; still I must give her all of me so that she can give me her wonderful unconditional love and acceptance.  That she can embrace me in all of my glory, and all of my shortcomings.  To know that I am never judged, but I am always loved to the bitter end. This kind of love inspires me to be better and reach all of my potential. 
 aajb1jk
When I played sports. I was very competitive. And there were times when coaches or teammates were really forward in correcting something I did or didn’t do. Depending on how I felt about the coach or the teammate, revealed how I took that criticism.  If you had credibility in my life, then you can really get on me and I’ll receive it.  But even more so… is after that criticism, argument or fight I am the type of person that the more faith you express in me the more I am apt to accomplish even more than I thought I could on my own.  I am a person who loves to encourage by nature. And when the right people encouraged me, I go above and beyond because of my natural bent towards loyalty.  I believe in loyalty so much!  I’m happy to prove that confidence in me will be rewarded, not disappointed.  
So in relating this to such a precious friendship, relationship, bond, commitment promises, and covenant, she is to be my ultimate teammate, partner, life coach, intimate soulmate.  She has the credibility to teach, correct, adding input to my life, my character, my manhood.  She can challenge me in love and help make me to be all the man I need to be.  In turn, because my heart is open, because I trust her with me knowing that she will never leave, forsake or betray me, my only response is to take heed to her intelligence and insight, and work my ass off to earn her praise. Then as she praises me even unexpectedly, when I least expect it, I am humbled and blessed, thankful as I waddle in her love.  For you see she has my heart in her hands.  She is in charge of it.  She will keep it safe.  And I love her for taking on this heart of mine.  

Facing Faults and Fears Part 3 ~ The Grudge?

Unforgiveness or Moving On?

There are times when I struggle with the word forgiveness.  Not so much as whether I have the ability to forgive someone in terms of pardoning a sin.  Lord knows we all have them and each of us take our turns needing grace from someone.  What I question is the true definition of forgiveness and whether restoration has to be a part of the process for forgiveness to be legit or complete.   As I get older, I question my old way of thinking and tend to think not.

As an example there was a friend of mine who I have been cool with for almost 20 years.  We’ve shared many stories of joy and pain and have been there for one another throughout both good and difficult times.  Well I going through something last year and I shared it with this person.  My car had some major engine damage and I was scrambling to come up with the several thousand dollars to have it fixed.  I needed the car for transportation for working both my 9-5 as well as my officiating jobs that I already had lined up.

Speaking with him about the situation, he said, “I am so sorry to hear about your car.”  I said that I appreciated it and just to let it be known I am taking donations.  He thought I was joking but I clarified my desperation. 

Mind you… I have NEVER asked this person for a dime.  Neither had I ever asked my mother since I left her home at the age of 14.  But I did this time.  This person asked me what my car payment was (monthly).  I gave the amount and he said they would help me out with one month’s payment.  “Great, !”  I said as I voiced my appreciation. 

He gave me a date and I said Ok.  The date passed and I didn’t hear anything.  I called and didn’t get an answer.  After a week I received a call from this person saying he was out of town and didn’t have a chance to go to the bank but that the money was forthcoming within a day.  I said that was fine.

After another week I called again, not for the money just to see if he were OK.  Still didn’t get an answer.

The next time I called the person answered the phone… perhaps by mistake and I could him him talking to someone else.

I hung up the phone.

Later I sent an email to the person letting him know that I was really hurt.  Not because of the money because anyone has the right to do with their money as they please even if they say they are going to do one thing and later change their mind.  But to not say anything and avoid me?  I thought we were way better than that.  I put it behind me and left it alone.

Well after 8 or 9 months, I get a text from this person saying, “Hey.”  I looked at it, remembered the number (because I had previously deleted it out of my phone) and thought to myself, “Hey what?”  My initial thought was that we didn’t have anything to talk about.  I didn’t see any explanations or apologies for the times I was calling and didn’t get an answer.  I just erased it and kept on stepping. 

Now here are the questions I have to ask myself when I try to identify the forgiveness thing.  

Question: Am I upset at this person?  Am I holding this against him?

Answer:  I honestly don’t believe I am.  I managed to get my car fixed and I have moved on.  I regretted that the friendship couldn’t handle the topic of money and though the subject never came up between us before, the only reason I asked was because I  felt we were ‘cool like that.’  That was a sign of deep humility and respect for me to even think of asking this person because I don’t just ask anybody for anything.

Question:  What is my reluctance from speaking to this person stemming from?

Answer:  I believe it’s stems from the fact that I thought we were cool.  And regardless of money, even if the person were a millionaire, I would not have felt he was obligated to give me anything.  But the fact that he promised something and avoided me as if I were a pesky beggar made me question the entire friendship.  My thinking is, “Where would we pick up from here?  If we ain’t soul after almost 20 years, I can’t see it materializing now.” 

When it comes to my inner circle, I am fiercely loyal.  And when that loyalty is not returned as opposed to rolling over like I did back in the day for the sake of being what I believed was Christian about it, I’ve had a change of heart.  Now when folks cross me a certain way, I just tend to be done with them.   Not cause I’m mad, but because I just don’t have time to pretend that a close friendships is anything but superficial if that is all it really is.  Everyone has superficial people in their lives.  And with these folks we don’t expect much.  But a friend is supposed to be a friend.

I had some beef with another friend of mine for a minute.  And because we were boys for real, we eventually had our say man to man and hashed the stuff out.  I consider him an even better friend now.  We got through a big storm where feelings were hurt on both sides.  We learned that our loyalty was strong even when we didn’t think it was.  I say that to say this is not about X’ing people out of my life just because I feel like it.  As I said I value my inner circle.

So what do you think?  Am I being too cold in this situation?  Am I holding a grudge?  Should I have responded to this person and perhaps he would have apologized?  (From what I know of this person, I don’t think he would have said anything about it.  I think he just wanted to pretend like it was all good though I could be wrong)  This is my dillema.  The old way of thinking for me would be the quickly accept this person back into my good graces.  The older, wiser me (in my opinion) says, F it!  No hard feelings on my part, but like Mint Condition, “We’ve Nothing Left To Say.”

The Hidden, When Resentment Comes Rushing Back

It’s been a rough go for some members of my family lately. 

My sister is facing some health issues.  I have a young cousin who was visiting from Minnesota and caught double pneumonia, was medically sedated for a couple weeks and we are blessed to see her coming around again.  Visiting with her Tuesday night, she seemed like her normal playful self again.

Another cousin my age also caught pneumonia and has congestive heart failure.  We believe she will be ok too but she definitely needs to make some lifestyle changes that we hope she adheres to.

While visiting both cousins who are at the same hospital, I learned yet another cousin’s father died over the weekend.  I am not terribly close to this cousin and I never even met his father.  But what came rushing back to me when I heard the news after the initial feelings of, “I’m sorry to hear that.” was the memory of this cousin’s words after my own father died a little over 10 years ago.

When my dad passed on, this cousin said that he would not go to the funeral because, “I don’t want to go somewhere and hear a bunch of lies.” – for those who may not be clear, he felt that it would be one of those funerals where everyone said great things about a terrible guy. 

Well for one, my dad definitely had his faults as we all do but he was not a terrible guy.  Second, he was a minister and as such we didn’t even have a typical funeral that spent all of the service talking about how great he was.  To the contrary we celebrated his life and talked about his faith and how he had it when it counted most upon making the decision to have the heart surgery that would bring on his demise a week later.

This same cousin lost his mother to a horrible bout with lung cancer.  We all stuck together and supported he and his brother as well as my mom and other aunt.  When my turn came to grieve, he basically spit on my father’s memory and said some things I wonder if I will ever forget.

Now here is the thing.  It’s not like I think about this every day.  I can’t remember the last time I did think of it until I heard the news of his father.  I have seen the guy a few times since and most of the time it still didn’t cross my mind.  But the other night it did.  It stung again and I was resentful.  I wonder if I will ever let it go, since I didn’t know it was still there to begin with.

I’m not interested in holding this thing in my heart.  Perhaps I never really dealt with it.  Perhaps it’s my way of protecting myself by not allowing this person to be close to me and take a chance that he would say or do something else that would violate my confidence.   I don’t know.  I wish I did. 

In spite of my ill feelings,  I will call him to offer him my support. 

I guess the best thing for me is knowing that the hurt was still there.  And I will have a chance to explore myself and resolve it.