The Audacity of Forgiveness


On Election Day for the Illinois primaries in March this year, I willingly walked into a police station.

I marched through the doors just as boldly as police officers used to storm through the door of my childhood home in the Robert Taylor projects.

Growing up, the police were not my friend. They accused with their eyes, insinuated with their questions, and brutalized with their hands. So, when I entered the station, with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on my brain, I felt like I was crossing enemy lines.

I walked into the room where I was supposed to vote and resisted the urge to thank the volunteers. I was beginning to get emotional. I thought about how once upon a time in America, Black people couldn’t vote and that now, they were organizing volunteers at polling places.

I was giddy. I wanted to skip to the booth. My emotions were like hot grits bubbling up on a stove. I was so pumped up that I couldn’t understand what to do with the ballot!

So, I went back to one of the lovely volunteers and asked. With my new-found knowledge, I went over to the privacy booth. I wasn’t sure why it was so private, though. Shouldn’t we be proud to vote for whomever we choose to vote for?

I chose Obama for President, and as I shaded in the other names, I kept looking at the top of the page at Obama. It was surreal!

A man of color’s name was listed next to the choice of President of the United States.

Yes, I’ve watched all of the coverage. Yes, I knew that he was thinking about running, but when I saw his name next to President of the United States, it just moved me.

During my long train ride back to Michigan, where I now live, I thought about the police. I knew that “those” police officers were probably not the men who choked my brother.

I realized that maybe they weren’t even in the police academy when I lived in the Robert Taylor Homes. But I wondered, at this new stage in my spiritual life, what I would have done if I had recognized one of the men from back in the day – would I have forgiven him?

Forgiveness is a funny business. We all want to be forgiven by God, but it’s real hard to let some stuff go. I used to feel like I had a right to be angry at some folks, but now I know better.

I’ll always remember the day I decided to walk into a police station.

I’ll remember that later that day, the Holy Spirit used Super Tuesday as a lesson. I realize now that it really wasn’t about Obama after all.

It was about me learning to forgive, like my father in Heaven.

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