Thought Sketch #0007: On Brandt Jean and Damnation
Thought Sketches are the long-form microblogging notes I would traditionally post to Facebook, Tumblr, etc. These thoughts are documented here as brief snippets of thought and contemplation, a public journal of my observations and insights, as I’m not really one for blogging or writing the way I’m “supposed” to.
I made a status I wrote on Facebook about Botham's brother and forgiveness private.
Honestly, some of y'alls reactions to this whole situation make me feel deeply unsafe being in community, and I need a minute to step back from the Internet to gather myself. As someone who was lensing my understanding from the place of being a personal victim of sexual violence - violence so imaginable and brutal that has deprived me of an ability, until now, to live a full life - whose crimes against my person did have indisputable political dimensions that I have shouldered the burden of and discussed at length, the lack of care and respect for the victims while grappling with the bigger pictures has me deeply, deeply upset.
Forgiveness has been central to my recovery, and yet my experience of forgiveness has never been about the people, inc. other Black folx, who did me grievous, life-threatening, and life-stealing harm. I understand why he said it. I understand why he's feeling it. Fuck, I even understand why he hugged that wretchedly undeserving being, even though it infuriates me, because the optics made the whole thing about her and I understand how visual rhetoric works to abet the perpetration and validation of violence. The grief and rage of losing a part of your life, the absolute devastation of having your faith rocked to the roots of the Earth, it brings you so perilously close to death. I almost died because of it - I wept alone in dark places and I begged, begged, to be released from the enormous burden of it. The only thing that gave me the ability to breathe and to find the strength to live was making unfathomable choices to put Earth-scale love and forgiveness on the table because I didn't want to lose my humanity and my tenderness to the violence. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to walk through life with my capacity for hope being crushed into oblivion because the worst of things fed me bitterness. I did not want to be tied to them for forever, nor allow them to steal my capacity for gentleness when they stole so much else.
Y'all know me well enough by now, most of you, to know how I live my life and my politics - and have heard me be a fierce and devoted advocate for justice, for accountability, for unbending truth-telling, and that all these isms are material violence. Are you suddenly going to deny me now because I willingly admit to my forgiveness, too? Would you throw me out like trash and insult me as a person because I believe that forgiveness by the harmed, for themselves, can be just as essential to social restoration as making material amends? Do you really loathe me and my desire to live without the burden of oblivion that much, that you'd direct your ire at me, and not at the world that weaponised my choices?
The Jeans do not have to perform for my politics nor for the white gaze or white supremacy. They are also not obliged to be perfect representatives of a Black political experience while on a non-consensual public stage while grieving, and trying to deal the immediacy and intensity of trauma that makes people do and say all sorts of things that don't make sense to anyone. My concern is with their healing. My devotion is to a society where Black people can be messy and where their choices aren't weaponized against them matter what they choose. My care is with them as victims and extending grace and space to them to survive their personal touch with the most horrific incarnations of anti-Black violence - purposeful and intentional murder - in *whatever* way they personally need, and I can hold space for sincerity of Black people's current realities while also seeing how they don't have choice due to bigger systemic mechanisms, and still make the decision to let them have choice and space (while critiquing the big picture dynamics) without being cruel to them anyways. I deeply understand where that man is coming from, and while I don't agree with how he went about sharing his heart for a variety of reasons, I also don't think any of y'all have the authority to dictate his healing to him, either. I certainly don't.
It's possible to have an emotional need for forgiveness without it being a response to the demands of white supremacy. Forgiveness is not mutually exclusive with accountability, anger, justice, or remembrance. Seeing people say vile, ugly things about his family - inc. calling him a coon - makes me nervous for the damn future where we're going to need to galvanize ourselves around devotion to accountability *and* empathy (in this case, for Botham's family, not his murderer. I maintain this is not about her, this is about honoring the impact on the victims, and honoring their grieving process, even if we don't understand and don't agree) in order to survive.
Idk. Y'all fucking triggered the shit out of me.
Addendum: Someone just reminded me that his brother is also a child - I consider 18-year-olds to be large children. So that makes it extra terrible.
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