Most of us are struck by the words Emanuel AME members speak to Dylann Roof, words that speak peace to the man who killed their loved ones, words that attempt to redeem pain by the example of a loving and suffering savior.
Without a doubt, offering this grace came at a significant cost: to rise out of the ashes of pain and show lovingkindness in this moment was an expression of the faith that has saved the lives of these people, and given meaning to years of racist oppression as well as the strength to continue to bear it.
As a white person, I don’t want to hear those words of forgiveness and feel anything more or less than called to rise to my own work: which is not to demonize Roof as so very different from me, but to understand the roots of white supremacy in the ground of my being, and continue to do my best to pull them out.
I don’t want to hear those words and think they mean I am okay and I can live my white life, without wondering every day what I can do today — not to merit that grace, but to keep from cheapening it.
The Christian faith I share with these saints not only offers grace and forgiveness, but calls me to do something with that grace and forgiveness. What am I forgiven for? How is my graced life meant to transform? Where will my love for these neighbors and the God who created us show up?