At the same time, I ask the African-American Community to forgive white America. Rev. Roland Gordon, an African-American pastor wrote, “I saw that I had not truly come to terms with my obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ to forgive and genuinely to love, as Christ commands.” Rev. Gordon forgave his white tormentors and found racial reconciliation. African-American leader John Perkins offered the following recipe for racial reconciliation:

White people must allow the gospel to penetrate their culture. Whites must allow the gospel to speak deeply to their deep broken, exploitative, superior, and unjust lifestyles and attitudes. White Christians who claim Christ as Savior must also make him Lord over such areas as spending, racial attitudes, and business dealings. Whites must see that the oppression of black people in this country runs deep throughout both our cultures. And anything short of a fundamental change of values–which I believe possible only through a relationship with Jesus Christ–will result in viewing the problem as “the black problem” and offering solutions like charity and welfare which have within them the same seeds of destructive exploitation and dehumanizing greed that oppress the poor in the first place. . . Black people must allow the gospel to penetrate their culture. Integration, equal opportunity, welfare, charity, and all these programs fail to deal with the deep-seated values that cause the bankruptcy in our black communities. These programs only serve to conform people to this world. Only the gospel can transform people by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).

These are the words of John Perkins who was almost beaten to death by whites and this quote was written in 1976! His son continued that crusade until his death a few years ago.

Perkins knew that it was impossible to overestimate the power of forgiveness. Jesus challenges all believers to forgive others who have wronged them (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-25). Forgiveness can release us all (James 5:19-20). Forgiveness is powerful and necessary medicine for America. It is, perhaps, the most important and unique contribution that African-American Christianity can offer to the American racial story. Forgiveness is not about right or wrong it is about atonement, doing what God commands us to do. An African-American church leader recently reflected, “I can either be right or reconciled.”

African-Americans have been wronged. They have every right to be unforgiving. To be unforgiving. Unforgiveness is destructive.

To speak of forgiveness in race relations may seem to be an oxymoron. Nevertheless, I ask the African-American community to forgive. Forgive and remember–not forgive and forget. Some will say that because I am white that I have no right to ask. I admit that I have no right, but I ask anyway.

We have learned in this century through Proust that memory contains more than we at first are conscious of having received–it is involuntarily. Memory is also voluntary. Freud showed us that we remember only what we want to remember, in the way we want to remember it. Without memory forgiveness is cheap and destructive. If the African-American community forgets the wrongs, in the sense of pretending that they do not occur, then they risk having the problems arise again. I ask my African-American brothers and sisters to remember and to forgive.

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