Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
Judge Tammy Kemp, who presided over the Amber Guyger trial, said she had just heard a sermon about “treating the lost with love and compassion,” and that is partially what compelled her to hug Guyger after she was sentenced to 10 years for killing Botham Jean in his home. Guyger, a Dallas police officer at the time, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, and said she feared for her life when she saw the man. Jean was chilling in his home eating vanilla ice cream. Eating ice cream is probably one of the most nonthreatening activities one can do.
Can I just say how tired I am of hearing this tired refrain of officers fearing for their lives? It’s said as if the other person, the unarmed person who was actually killed, didn’t fear for his or her life. Who should be more afraid: the unarmed person or the person with a weapon, training and a shoot-to-kill mentality? If I hear that one more time my head may explode like that mind-blown emoji on smart phones! I digress, but I had to get that off my chest.
According to Kemp, Guyger twice asked her for a hug. She initially froze then she thought about her “responsibility as a person.” She also happened to be standing in the same spot where she was inducted as a judge and charged “to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly.”
All of this comes as Kemp explains her actions and why she hugged Guyger and gave her a Bible. She stands by her actions. And, I still feel as I felt a week ago that Kemp’s behavior was inappropriate. However, it’s the underlying compassion for Guyger that truly burns my britches.
She didn’t have to tell me her faith compelled her to act with compassion. I knew this.
It’s the same compassion Black folk have shown time and time again ever since we were brought to this country to be enslaved. It’s the same compassion that led relatives of those massacred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, to forgive Dylann Roof — even as Roof sat unapologetically in court. In fact, he downright refused to apologize: “I want to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” But yet and still, Black people fall all over each other to show we have the biggest hearts. White journalists covering these cases consistently discuss the strength and power these Black people have to forgive.
This is bigger than Kemp. It’s about a mentality that has been passed down from generation to generation of Black folk that we must demonstrate compassion at all times or else we won’t get into heaven — even when we aren’t shown the same compassion. I don’t see white Americans being this forgiving — even those who profess a belief in Christ. How many white judges hug young Black men after they’ve killed a white person?
The message is clear: Black people are to forgive white people. I blame the Christianity we were taught — a white supremacist version of Christianity. We were taught to turn the other cheek and forgive all the atrocities done to us then and now, but I’ve yet to see that same forgiveness extended to us — even for far lesser offenses. I am over the double standard and hypocrisy.