Editorial: We don’t have to forgive and forget
We can forgive without forgetting.
On Wednesday, Amber Guyger — the former Dallas police officer convicted of murder for shooting Botham Jean in his apartment after she mistakenly walked in, thinking it was her home — was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
What garnered almost as much attention as the conviction and punishment was the moment that followed — the moment when Jean’s brother Brandt offered forgiveness and asked if he could hug the slight blonde.
“I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want,” he said, citing his Christian belief in the power of atonement.
“And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you,” he added.
There is a lot of emotion there. It speaks of empathy and faith. Some found it hard to understand. How could that be the answer to the pain of such a tragic loss?
So many American communities have been strained and torn by what has followed when a black man has died from a white police officer’s bullet. Pittsburgh has been there in the aftermath of the Antwon Rose II shooting and the trial and aquittal of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.
This time was different. Guyger was off-duty. There was no traffic stop or response to a call. There was no doubt she was wrong, just whether it was a crime or not.
For some, it seemed to hurt when the case ended in a sentence that seemed too short and then an emotional embrace from a family member. Those feelings have merit and shouldn’t be dismissed.
But there should be room for forgiveness. It shouldn’t be expected or demanded, but if it is offered, the public shouldn’t scorn the decision that helps one family member heal. There has to be an understanding that as we all look toward the storm of the tragedy, the family is in the eye. This is their pain to overcome, not ours to join or condemn.
What others can do is not forget.
Let forgiveness focus on the soul. But by not forgetting what happened, justice isn’t reserved for courthouses.
Not forgetting means keeping the lessons and the losses in mind, and working every day toward a world where no one’s grief and politics have to sit in the same pew at a funeral or on the same bench in a courtroom. Mourning a life and striving for change need their own space and time.
There is hope in the Guyger case — hope that justice can be done, hope that people can be held responsible, and yes, hope that forgiveness isn’t lost.