By Vernon A. Williams
With the hypocrisy and convenience of the “sorry card,” some reckless Americans are giving the word ‘forgiveness’ a bad name. To compound the matter, many hypocrites try to pick and choose – applying grace only when it jibes with their agenda.
So, if it sort of sounds like I’m saying there can be too much forgiveness, or a pardon where there is not sufficient contrition or repentance – I am. If it also sounds like there are some who receive too little consideration for forgiveness – right again.
The Bible teaches that there is no path to salvation without our possessing the spirit of forgiveness. There is no specific reference to the required time frame. In all honesty, it may be the most difficult requirement for Christians – next to the ‘love your enemy’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ spiritual dictates.
Last month Purdue University President Mitch Daniels told students that he had plans that involved “recruiting one of the rarest creatures in America…a leading, I mean really leading, African American scholar…one of the rarest phenomenon.”
Students immediately rebuked the former Indiana GOP governor for the insulting references to African Americans as creatures, as well as the suggestion that a top Black scholar should be classified as a “phenomenon.”
After two weeks of unsavory publicity that reached the national level coupled with heated protests from students and campus leadership, Daniels apologized insisting that he had never been more misunderstood. But for most, it was far too little – much too late.
At best, Daniels was rhetorically irresponsible with no sense of correctness for his environment. At worse, his personal bias and prejudices led to an utterance that bespoke the thoughts of his heart – that he really believes a very smart Black person is an anomaly.
The truth is, that neither consoles those objectified by the biting rant.
To the other end of the spectrum, the Texas woman who shot and killed a young Black man who lived in her building explaining that she accidentally walked into the wrong apartment was immediately forgiven by the victims’ younger brother. Then the judge who sentenced her came down from the bench to give her a mother hug and her own Bible.
Wow. On what planet does that happen?
It is especially ironic when Americans are more relentlessly unforgiving of football great Michael Vick even after he apologized and served a prison term for his role in abusive dog fighting.
The dog fighting made some far more angry and unforgiving than the tragic fate of a man in Minnesota slain by police while his four-year-old child sat in the back seat; or the case of a New York man in a police choke hold pleading repeatedly, “I can’t brea- the” right before they snuffed the life out of him, or a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun shot and killed by cops without so much as a word of warning.
The bottom line is that forgiveness in America comes with the same double standards as the rest of society. Most reacted to Mitch Daniels with skepticism. Some fear that he will simply ride out the storm until the anguish settles and return to business as usual.
Will faculty, staff and students at Purdue form a watchdog group to assure accountability as a proactive measure regarding similar and related issues? Will Purdue alumni chime in with support for those still on campus, encouraging the president not to do whatever it takes to prevent such disparity in thought and communication?
The urgency of inclusion and diversity is immediate and must be pervasive. Remember, this conversation started as a result of discontent for treatment of a student of color.
If the administration opts to sweep this concern under the rug, or go about it with tepid urgency, there should be consequences. Otherwise, there will never be genuine progress.
If these Black scholars – who are not rare, creatures or phenomena – do nothing or too little, insensitivity persists … in the aftermath, they may never forgive themselves.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].