Forgiveness Is a White Privilege

Clockwise from top left: Kyle Kashuv, a sign at a protest for Trayvon Martin. Nicholas Sandmann, the casket of Michael Brown Jr.
Image: Justin Sullivan, Scott Olson, Robert Cohen (Getty Images/Real Clear Politics)

Then Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

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Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as [the servant] was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you’

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And he would not forgive the debt, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

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—Matthew 18: 21-35

Aside from being a great storyteller, activist, and winemaker, Yeshua ben Yousef was also one of the greatest teachers of his time. But if he were alive today, Jesus the Christ would be vilified by Christian conservatives and the religious right for teaching anti-American, socialist principles such as free healthcare, feeding the hungry, debt forgiveness, and—worst of all—doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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I’m pretty sure Jesus shared this story with his disciples to illustrate the virtue of forgiveness, the sin of hypocrisy and the importance of following the golden rule. But this now-heretical parable is also a perfect illustration of the miles-wide chasm between being a white child and being a black child in America.

And if that two-millennium-old Ted Talk by a community organizer isn’t enough, please turn your Bibles to the book of America, Chapter 3, Verse 16.

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This is an excerpt from the scripture of white conservatives. According to the religious dogma of Fox News, right-wing talk radio and people who believe all lives matter, the blood of black children is a direct result of their own actions. Therefore, according to the conservative Golden Rule of taking responsibility for one’s actions, the bullet-riddled corpses of dead black babies is the result of the all-American principle of reaping what you sow.

All of the great white prophets clearly explained this to us in their sermons:

“Trayvon Martin would be a alive today if he didn’t have a street attitude. And that’s the bottom line.” — Former NYPD detective Harry Houck.

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“Racist police brutality has to be punished. But respect has to be paid..” — David Brooks on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

“Act like a thug and you’ll be treated like one.” — Lt. Javier Ortiz, president of Miami chapter of Fraternal Order of Police, on death of Tamir Rice.

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See? It’s their fault.

If only black people would accept personal responsibility for their actions and teach their children how to behave better, then we wouldn’t have all this controversy. Geraldo Rivera even explained that the children killed by police brutality were actually committing “urban suicide” and proposed that—instead of protesting by wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt—Lebron James could help solve the problem by wearing a “Raise Your Children” tee.

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Yes, he actually said that.

On television.

They believe this, too. After all, the religion of right can see God’s grace in America’s spacious skies, her purple mountains’ majesty and her liberty and justice for all. This is a country that gives everyone what they deserve, and if you fall short, then it must be your fault.

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Unless you are white.

If you are white, then America is the land of “second chances”—especially if you are a white child. Simply by being born with white skin, this sweet land of liberty a bequeaths you an endless supply of mulligans.

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Take, for instance, the case of Kyle Kashuv, who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., became a conservative, pro-gun advocate and was subsequently accepted to Harvard University.

The Root’s Dara Sharif writes:

On Monday, Kashuv shared his astonishment that Harvard had rescinded his admission because of his use of racial slurs in texts he sent two years ago, HuffPost reports.

The texts included repeated use of the word “nigger,” including the uhm, observation: “like im really good at typing nigger ok like practice uhhhhhh makes perfect son??!!”

HuffPost reported last month on the existence of the racist messages, for which Kashuv, now 18, apologized, saying: “We were 16-year-olds making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible.”

But in a case where actions seem to have had consequences, Harvard apparently decided to nix Kashuv’s acceptance into the Class of 2023.

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The news immediately riled up the entire class of conservative punditry. The New York Times’ Caucasian apologist editorial staff rang the alarm and dispatched columnist David Brooks to explain why this innocent little sayer-of-racist-shit should be excused from his actions.

“In a sin-drenched world it’s precisely through the sins and the ensuing repentance that moral formation happens,” Brooks wrote. “That’s why we try not to judge people by what they did in their worst moment, but rather by how they respond to their worst moment.”

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Brooks adds, with all seriousness, that it’s “hard to know if Kashuv has learned from his repulsive comments” but explained that “wisdom comes through a renovation of the heart” and the “awful grace of God.” But the coup de grace of Brooks’ article was when this bastion of conservative principles threw everything he ever wrote into a dumpster, set it on fire and explained that Kashuv shouldn’t be beholden to the commandments of conservatism simply because the world is forgiving of 16-year-olds, because they “haven’t disgraced themselves enough to have earned maturity.”

I’m sure 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin or 18-year-old Michael Brown would have agreed with you. If only someone had forgiven them. But you know how it is when you make a mistake, David:

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“Respect must be paid.”

Ben Shapiro, the right-wing troll who insists that he can’t be a white supremacist because he’s Jewish, argued that Harvard had set an impossible standard because it is virtually impossible to not say the n-word if you’re a white kid in America.

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In an article for the Daily Wire, Shapiro wrote that Kashuv “didn’t commit a crime; he didn’t espouse his gross views publicly,” adding that the teen “underwent a life-changing trauma.”

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Shapiro said that our colleges are “irrevocably broken,” because—again, this is actually his argument—if calling black athletes “niggerjocks” is frowned upon by private institutions, then “no one will survive.”

This is a parable of America. It illustrates the double standard that excuses white kids from their shenanigans while black four-year-olds get guns in their faces for walking out of dollar stores with dolls. This is why people excuse the actions of Covington Catholic MAGAts but understand why cops detain 12-year-olds playing in the park at gunpoint. It’s why media outlets referred to mass murderer Adam Lanza as “bright and troubled” and called Laquan McDonald “wild” and “dangerous.”

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It’s why accused murderer Kenneth Gleason was called a “clean-cut American kid;” Parkland shooter Nickolas Cruz was called a “broken child” and Mark Anthony Conditt was called a “troubled person motivated by frustrations. Meanwhile, police point guns at three-year-old black toddlers, handcuff innocent, black 10-year-olds and drag black high school girls down the hall.

But poor Kyle.

After searching the Republican scriptures, it is obvious to me that Kashuv’s parents didn’t raise him right. I understand that the white Bible says “act like a racist, get treated like one,” but Kyle clearly didn’t deserve this. Where’s his seventy times seven? Doesn’t he get 489 more chances to be racist? Everyone knows that people get less racist as they grow older, right?

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If only his father had worn a “Don’t Say Nigger” t-shirt.

But you know what the bible says:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.*

*Scripture does not apply to Brock Turner, sufferers of “affluenza,” parents who scam their kids’ way into elite colleges, Carolyn Bryant-Donham, ex-slave owners, people who watch Fox News, reparations advocates, presidents and white people under the age of 18.

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Amen.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.