“God knew how much we could bear. This is a turning point. Let’s continue to correct everything that stands against love. That is true #justice.” — Reverend Bernice A. King
Reverend Bernice A. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., posted this tweet shortly after the verdict was reached in the Derek Chauvin trial. In imploring us to fight against the vices that incessantly strive to defy love, King was speaking through the wisdom of her father who told us that “[h]ate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Watching Floyd agonizingly suffocate to death nearly a year ago with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, our country erupted into both rage and grief, which was exacerbated by the afflictions of the coronavirus pandemic. The horrid image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck is a gruesome visual none of us will forget, as Floyd pleaded for his life with his face pinned to the street, mustering up the strength to utter, “I can’t breathe.”
The nation collectively held its breath waiting for the jurors’ decision in Chauvin’s trial, which found him guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. As Chauvin awaits sentencing, the calls for healing abound in Minneapolis and throughout America, but fatal police shootings continue to occur.
Minutes after the Chauvin verdict was read, the killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant rocked Columbus. As Bryant’s shooting is being probed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, along with Chauvin being brought to justice, we still find ourselves asking the same question of how do we move forward from this “turning point” that King declared.
She gave us the answer, just as her father would have, in that we must press on in love. And I would humbly add that in progressing in love we must also forgive.
We need to be the extremists for love that Martin Luther King Jr. passionately advocated in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I thought about King’s ardent appeal again when reading about Rep. Barbara Lee and Sen. Cory Booker’s call for the establishment of a formal Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission to study institutionalized racism and the historical disenfranchisement of African-Americans. Lee and Booker introduced a resolution for this commission last June, citing Floyd’s death and disparities in “environmental, economic, health, and social institutions” as the primary factors for its proposal.
“As a nation, we must acknowledge and grapple with the systemic racism and white supremacy that have been with us since our country’s founding and continues to persist in our laws, our policies and our lives to this day,” Booker said. Lee followed up by stating, “A painful and dangerous legacy of white supremacy lingers in our country, and we cannot begin healing until we fully acknowledge and understand how that legacy facilitates inequality today.”
I believe most in our nation agree that we need to heal racially as a people; however, the healing and transformation that is desperately desired can only be accomplished through forgiveness.
Forgiveness was a fundamental pillar of the civil rights movement, as King taught that “[f]orgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.” Bernice King implied in her tweet that God heard the cries for Floyd to receive justice, and we also need to pray that we can find it in our hearts to forgive those who perpetrate the racism and prejudice that fortifies the ongoing inequity and racial strife we continue to confront.
We need to pray for and forgive Derek Chauvin. I am reminded of the compassion and forgiveness Nadine Collier, the daughter of Emanuel AME Church shooting victim Ethel Lance, showed to Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed her mother along with eight people at a Bible study in 2015. It is the power of this forgiveness shown through the love of God that will get our country to the place of racial healing in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, the “justice” that can mend the deep wounds of bigotry entrenched in our nation’s soul.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at The Ohio State University-Lima. Email her at email@example.com. @JjSmojc