By Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter
I know Michael Brown lived in Ferguson. I know Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson. I know Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. I recommend forgiving in Ferguson.
I see the frustration in Ferguson. I hear the cries in Ferguson. I sense the fear in Ferguson. And I still recommend forgiving in Ferguson.
But what does Forgiving Ferguson mean?
Maybe we should start by asking and answering the question: What is forgiving? Yes, let’s start there.
What is forgiving?
No. We shouldn’t start there. That is too broad. You and I need to be more specific.
I think it makes more sense to start this discussion with me: the writer, the author, the channel of this idea called Forgiving Ferguson.
Yes. Let’s start with me.
Why start with me? Because that’s how all of us start to understand anything: we start with our individual selves. We start with our individual understanding based on our individual experiences. We start from within. We don’t start with FOX, CNN, OWN or CNBC. I start with Channel ME. You start with Channel YOU.
So – yes – let’s start with me and then we will talk about the idea of forgiving and then we will go to Ferguson and revive Michael Brown. We will go to New York and resuscitate Eric Garner. We will go to Sanford and reawaken Trayvon Martin. We will even go to Money and resurrect Emmett Till.
But before we talk about anything else, I have to start with me and you have to start with you. As I share with you what I know about forgiving, I want you to think about what forgiving means in your life. More often than not, it is through your personal lens of forgiving that you see the possibilities of forgiving for others.
If you have already decided you don’t want to take this journey of forgiveness then it is best that you stop here and stay here. It’s your channel. It’s your choice. You can ignore this call to forgiving Ferguson.
But remember: time will reconcile all of your problems with or without your permission. You can stop but the world will keep spinning. Forgiving offers you an opportunity to enhance your channel and experience a miracle. Want to experience a miracle? Forgive.
So I’m starting with me. I know something about forgiving. I’ve had to consider this idea and its implementation. I’ve had to consider the theory and how I apply it. I know a little about forgiving. That’s all any of us can ever know: our little part. And we know it intimately. Our experience with forgiving is like the blood running through our veins and arteries. We feel it. It feeds us. We can talk about our relationship to forgiving. We can tell others what we know but they won’t ever really know what we’re talking about. They have to do the forgiving work to know the forgiving work.
I was a 12-year-old boy when I heard my father shoot my mother in her head and kill her. I was a 12-year-old boy when I found my mother’s body fallen outside my bedroom door bleeding from a hideous hole in her right temple. I was a 12-year-old boy when the State of Illinois called on me as a chief witness against my father.
I was 45 years-old boy when I went to my father’s house to kill him. For 33 years, I deteriorated inside memories of my father’s cruel domestic violence. For 33 years I was steeped in rage, anger and hatred. So I went to kill my father. I went to his doorstep and put my frustrated face in front of his fragile face. I thought murder was the answer. I thought revenge held the key. I was wrong.
I forgave my father. I took him to my mother’s gravesite. I took him to meet my children. He died two months later.
Before I reunited with my father, I often said “I hate him.” People would say “you should forgive him.”
When I reunited with my father, I often said “I love him.” People would say “how can you love him?”
I stopped tuning in to other people’s advice on the matter. I tuned into Channel Me.
I didn’t want the “weight” of hate and I despised the burden of revenge. I forgave my father, liberated myself and established a new family legacy.
I know something about forgiving. But the word forgiving means something different for everyone who says the word. We’ve all got different experiences. We all have different translations. We all have different truths.
Generally speaking to forgive is to surpass limitations. Forgiving is an expansion not a concession. Forgiving is forward. Forgiving is not failure. To forgive is to free your mind from the deceptive demons that whisper in your ears and say “you were defeated.” Forgiving brings on an instant and deep inner justice that no verdict can reverse. To forgive is to journey forward completely unshackled by chains of the past.
People will say: “I will forgive, but I will not forget.”
That popular, but questionable, saying is a discussion for another article. But to be sure here, I am not suggesting that you forget. I am suggesting you embrace liberating memories. Liberating memories are the channel through which you create a liberated future. Pain-filled memories can create a pain-filled future.
Change your channel and let the dead bury the dead.
Like a lot of people – like too many people – I watched the news on some television channel waiting for a verdict. FOX, CNN, CNBC. Doesn’t matter which channel, doesn’t matter the talking head. I was running their “objective” information through Channel Me. I looked at scenes from a place called Ferguson. I’d seen images like these before. I’d seen Black people respond like this before. Is this our best response? Is this our only response? Have we lost our imaginations?
How do we disrupt what we say is a vicious cycle perpetrated against Black Men? Is the answer to set fires? Loot for material shit? Turn cars over? Fight police? Throw bottles? Are these actions part of a spontaneous ritual in honor of people we claim to love?
We can and should do better. We can and should forgive Ferguson.
What would forgiving look like in Ferguson? It could start with a massive silence. It could continue with people quietly returning to their own homes, looking at their family members, expressing gratitude for life and recommitting to deep love. It could start with people forgiving and seeking forgiveness from those closest to them. It’s easy and maybe even convenient to go running out into the big crowds, getting lost in the group mentality and forgetting you have rifts right in your own home. Forgiving in Ferguson could start with each individual and in each individual household. I bet Michael would be cool with that.
There was a time when I would look at my children and wish my mother was alive and could see them. It took some time, but eventually it became very clear to me that my mother lives inside of my children. Her blood runs through their veins. Her blood supplies their heartbeats. She sees through their eyes. She is alive and very well.
My father did not and could kill my mother. Darren Wilson did not and could not kill Michael Brown. But is our inability to forgive killing Michael? Is our lack of imagination setting us up for more of the same shit on a different day?
When I was a little boy, I used to ask my mother when I would be old enough to fight my father. She always said the same thing: “I don’t want you to fight your father. I want you to be better.” She didn’t say I was better. She said “be better.”
Imagine a large, poised group of Black Men in Ferguson holding a press conference – a forgiveness press conference and asking Darren Wilson to join them. He agrees. They look him in the eyes and they forgive him. They embrace him. Together with Wilson, these Black Men establish an annual ritual for Michael. They get together to “be better” and remember together. This could actually happen. There are all kinds of possibilities when you journey into forgiving.
Can you imagine breaking bread with someone who killed your loved one? Can you imagine getting to know someone who killed your loved one? I can.
You can’t? Maybe it’s time for you to tune out the social static and change your channel. Maybe you should reflect on what you can do where you live to Forgive Ferguson and bring honor to this moment.
Michael is watching us. Eric is watching us. Trayvon is watching us. Emmett is watching us. Like my mother Clarice, they are alive and very well. What do they see? What would they want? Fighting or forgiving? Bitter or better?
Forgiving changes everything and everywhere.
Even in Ferguson.
Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter is author of the forthcoming book “Forgive: the new mantra for Black Men.” Mr. Slaughter has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Network, The Dr. Phil Show and The CNN Headline News Network with Suzanne Roberts. Visit www.butchslaughter.biz for more information about his work.