One of the primary reasons it took a Civil War to free American slaves was explained by Thomas Jefferson when he wrote: “…we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” The raging and consuming fear throughout the South at that time — where slavemasters had been so brutal on black folk for over a hundred years — was that if slaves were granted freedom every Southern white person would be murdered in their beds.
Of course, nothing like that happened, primarily because black Americans are among the most forgiving people on the face of the earth. We’re forgiving sometimes to a fault.
By way of example, Dylann Roof, the white supremacist and mass murderer who interrupted a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015 and killed nine worshippers, was immediately and loudly forgiven by some black Christians in spite of the fact that he never asked for their forgiveness. Indeed, he recently asked an equally disturbed Ohio woman to send him Nazi literature as he sits and awaits execution. How do you forgive someone who has not repented?
The list of people in America whose transgressions — whether they were criminal acts or not — demands they forever be treated like pariahs is indeed long and growing: folks like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey (as much as I admire his immense talent) fall into that category and they should be sidelined from the public sphere for life.
However, others whose sins were far less erogenous, such as, say, Al Franken (who was run out of Congress over what basically was a prank of a sexual nature) and Kevin Hart (who said something inappropriate years ago about gays that he has apologized for), should not be forever banned from the public space. Nor should their ancient mistakes be forever thrown in their faces.
On a personal level I’ve been granted a second chance, and so far it’s worked out pretty well since I don’t even jaywalk anymore. And remember, mine was not just one or two slips (or three or four for that matter). I was a dedicated career counterfeiter for close to 30 years. I woke up everyday gleefully excited about the prospect of breaking the laws of a country I felt had so disrespected me. And while I will never again break the law, I still struggle with trying to bring myself to feel guilty or even remorseful about my former career.
The reason I’m writing this is because some very qualified people are increasingly reluctant to enter the public spotlight because of some minor incident from their past. But in these challenging times we need our best and brightest taking on the mantle of leadership free from the fear of the past.
So maybe if we have a “National Day of Forgiveness” for those truly deserving of it, we could quit excluding talented people from fully participating in all areas of American society, from sports to entertainment, to politics or whatever other fields they choose to pursue.
The question is: Are we a country made up of fair citizens, or will some special interest groups be allowed to unfairly bash other Americans ad infinitum?
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.