How Do We Forgive Historical Pain Caused by Racism?

Let me be honest. I am having difficulty being the spiritual guru of forgiveness that I envision myself as. I have been searching particularly hard this summer for a new way of thinking about forgiveness, a magical element to add to my longtime studies; something I can say or think and “Shazaam” forgiveness is mine.

I don’t want to die with a hole in my heart. As I say, “Forgiveness is for giving yourself a new life. I want a new life!

Let me explain.

Since the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, I have realized that I personally am not as good at forgiveness as I thought I was. I have studied forgiveness, taught forgiveness, prayed for and practiced forgiveness. Yet since the Zimmerman verdict, I have been angry at white people.

Okay, I am not angry at all white people and I have managed my anger, as a “civilized’ person does. But I am being honest. I am telling the truth, something we are not encouraged to do in our culture, especially when the truth has to do with feelings about race.

Yes, even a spiritual teacher and lifetime seeker of the truth can get worn down occasionally by the burden of history. Trying to be a sane black woman in America is more difficult some days than on others. When a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of the teenaged Trayvon Martin, I was immediately angry and hurt and while I have worked on both of these feelings with prayer and meditation, the fact that old anger resurfaces whenever an incident I deem "racist" occurs says to me that I still have work to do.


Indeed, when I think something is racist I should be angry. Anger at what we consider injustice can serve as a trigger to spur us to work toward a solution. But what hurt me most and made me furious this time was the familiarity of the pain. I am too used to this pain. I have cried many times over the death of black men I believe were slain by acts of racism and people who saw them as worthless. I do not want this kind of pain to be familiar to me. I want to forget the memory of it, want it to leave me once and for all.

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Patrice Gaines
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