Vox Populi

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Valarie Kaur: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not forgetting: Forgiveness is freedom from hate. Two

days after nine black people were massacred by a white supremacist in

a historic black church in Charleston in June 2015, their family members

showed up at his bond hearing, looked into his eyes, and said, “I forgive

you.” I felt sick to my stomach. This man did not deserve their

forgiveness. I worried that saying these words too quickly cut short our

right to express our divine rage, publicly and internally. Yet these family

members chose to forgive as a declaration of their own autonomy, as if

to say no matter what you do to us, we will not allow you to make us

hate you. I thought about my own community’s choice to pray for the

gunman after the mass shooting of Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Forgiveness was not a substitute for justice; it had energized us in the

fight for justice. It reframed justice not as retribution but as cultural and

institutional transformation.


From See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur. Page 263 (Random House, 2021).

People mourning the deaths at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; image taken June 20 (three days post-shooting).

11 comments on “Valarie Kaur: Forgiveness

  1. PATRICIA R MCMILLEN
    October 9, 2022

    Lovely and courageous. I hope I’d be as brave as this poet if faced with similar circumstances.

    Like

  2. matthewjayparker
    October 6, 2022

    It’s a tough, counterintuitive concept that I often needle my students with. Forgiveness is not necessarily a release from the desire and/or need for justice is the best way that I can articulate it. Often far from it.

    Like

  3. matthewjayparker
    October 6, 2022

    It’s a tough, counterintuitive concept that I often needle my students with. Forgiveness is not necessarily a release from the and/or need for justice is the best way that I can articulate it. Often far from it.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      October 6, 2022

      Thanks, Matt. The process of forgiveness is difficult, paradoxical and necessary. I can’t afford to carry anger and resentment. These emotions will lead me down a dark and deadly path.

      Like

  4. Lisa Zimmerman
    October 4, 2022

    A wise person once said that forgiveness is setting a prisoner free, then realizing the prisoner is you.
    And it’s still hard. It is “part of being alive.”

    Like

  5. loranneke
    October 4, 2022

    Amazing, amazing…the gift of forgiveness actually being a gift to ones self! I’m not there yet but yearn for it…

    Like

  6. Barbara Huntington
    October 4, 2022

    So often Vox fills a need, even when I struggle to understand why the need exists. Thank you

    Like

  7. louisehawes
    October 4, 2022

    Me, too, Valerie. Still working on it, part of being alive.

    Like

  8. randomyriad
    October 4, 2022

    Reblogged this on Myriad Ways and commented:
    I am not there yet, but if we could get by without hate, we could move into a better world.

    Like

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