Looking out: The need to forgive

Wednesday, July 24, 1996

Looking out. By Brandon Astor Jones

The need to forgive

By Brandon Astor Jones

"We are not taking about a few months of indiscriminate law breaking. Slavery in America involved centuries of every manner of murder, rape, torture and evil one can imagine — being foisted up an entire people for no other reason than the colour of our skin. To suggest that America does not owe reparation to its African-Americans is like suggesting that one does not owe the lender the who loaned the money that allowed one's new house to be built." — Irving Elmer Bell

The average white US male has a chequered history of selective memory loss. That is especially true for so-called "angry white men". For example, if an African-American calls for reparations, you will hear those angry men — almost in unison — say, "You people need to forget slavery, put it behind you, get on with your lives and forgive the past". Of course, that would be easy to do if people of colour in America were not still suffering from the lasting effects of slavery.

However, if you take that same group of "angry white men" and place them on a parole board or jury and stand an African-American before them who has committed, or participated in, a crime two or three decades ago, they will remember every little detail of the past — despite all remorseful and positive behaviour today.

Unfortunately, they tend to be exceptionally resentful of such prisoners who have rehabilitated themselves in spite of the prison's administrative objection to any form of rehabilitation. They seem to be unable to see who the prisoner is, today: they cower before the induced political fear of what (s)he might be tomorrow. Under such circumstances, they do not remember the need to forgive.
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to answer letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, GD&CC, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA. Australians Against Executions is raising funds to pay for a lawyer for Brandon's resentencing trial. So far $7000 has been raised. If you can help, please make cheques payable to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account and post to 10 Palara Place, Dee Why NSW 2099. Donations to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account may also be made at any Commonwealth Bank, account No. 2127 1003 7638.]