Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lynching and Forgiveness: Is It Possible?

A clip from PBS entitled "Lynching and Forgiveness" discusses the implications and effects of lynching on African Americans directly affected by the lynchings and the process of forgiveness after the lynchings. Here is the clip that Dr. McKinney provided for our viewing pleasure :

Throughout the mini documentary/interview, we are introduced to African Americans who had either witnessed lynching first-hand or were nearly lynched during their lifetime. The first two women recount the stories of a Black student being dragged by a car, lynched and burned and another Black person being chained to a school and burned. The clip also talks with two Black men, one who witnessed a lynching at the age of eight and the other who barely escaped being lynched. The clip also discusses the spectacle of lynching including children witnessing lynching and postcards (for postcards, see The final part of the clip discusses how the African Americans forgive all the people for the lynchings and other actions that did occur.

After sitting and reflecting on the clip, thoughts flowed throughout my mind as a means for discussion in regards to lynching. One key point that I want to point out from the clip is the importance of religion to all of these individuals and how it affected their decision to forgive people what had been done to them. One can see that religion has become a vital aspect in the lives of African Americans, particularly through this clip, as it is a recurring theme throughout. Mr. Willie Thompson, the African American man who was nearly lynched, compares his situation to Jesus Christ and him being crucified. Mr. Thompson felt as though he was being led to be crucified, connecting himself to Christ. Even further, the reasoning for forgiveness for both Katherine Fletcher and Willie Thompson was their belief in Jesus Christ and that if Jesus can endure the conditions headed to be crucified then surely they can forgive those who are attempting to take them out. One can now see that religion played an integral part in the forgiveness response given by Blacks to those who committed such horrendous acts of violence against innocent people. Religion shaped the response of the Blacks in the nation.

Another point of reflection from the mini documentary is the transition from complete hatred to the ability to forgive. During the clip, the persons being interviewed discussed an inevitable hatred towards Whites. Mrs. Fletcher stated "It made me hate with a kind of hate I had never experienced. And I hated all white people. It was a hate that was really beginning to make me ill after awhile." The hatred was so strong that it bled through to the entire race. However after a while the hatred is shifted some where there is room for forgiveness. I found this to be interesting as one would believe that with such a strong hatred for a particular person or group, forgiveness would be hard to come by, if ever came in that particular lifetime.  However religion again, as one of the centers of African American life, enters into the picture and causes a transformational moment in which the African Americans, based off of religious belief in Jesus Christ and his actions when placed in a similar situation, makes room for forgiveness for what has been wrongly done to them. 

It would be interesting to see those who have the same religious background of Christianity as the African Americans in the clip and see if they have the same take on forgiveness. I do believe that there would differing opinions on this idea of forgiveness, especially when it comes to such horrendous acts of complete violence against innocent people.

After witnessing the lynching of innocent people or being nearly lynched, do you believe that it would be possible to forgive?


  1. The concept of forgiveness, as it is discussed in this entry, is very compelling and reminds me of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. In his book, Baldwin attempts to offer a solution to the racial problems between Whites and Blacks. Part of his solution requires blacks to relinquish their bitterness towards Whites and love them. For this to happen Blacks must be able to forgive Whites. I feel like this is a lot to ask of a people who have been so mistreated and oppressed. Personally, I am not sure that I would be able to forgive. Baldwin, however, requires Whites to earn the forgiveness of Blacks, which would result in sincere forgiveness, leading to genuine reconciliation and the mending of race relations. For example, if Whites proved to Mrs. Fletcher that they were worthy of her forgiveness her hatred for them might have ceased.

  2. Forgiveness is hard sometimes, but it is possible. In order for a person to move on with their life, they must be able to forgive. Without forgiveness, a person will reside and hate the person or group until they are able to reconcile. This lack of forgiveness is still present within the Black community today. I agree that religion has been the outlet used for forgiveness. This is because Christianity stressed the value of love and forgiveness. Yes, it is hard to forgive; but, you must forgive and forget.