Privilege Blog

The Other Side Of Forgiveness, Or, Saturday Morning 10:09am

To all in the Asian community, I feel for your fear and sorrow and rage and I am thinking of you


I have exhausted my capacity for outrage, in the dead middle of events that deserve it.

Absent outrage, what?

Sometimes we find an electoral solution, and therefore a clear course of action for change. But sometimes the problem is broader and deeper than the power of any one elected official. Then we enter the realm of culture and currents, and struggle and demonstrations, and thousands and thousands of opposing attempts to define evil. And in that place?

What about forgiveness? An obdurate forgiveness, if you will, one that allows for weakness but not excuses. Below, a framework. I will try to keep it short because I wanted to write about dresses but couldn’t. I ask your forbearance.

If we agree that human beings are fundamentally creatures, we may see that our biology wants us to do many things that were useful a long time ago and are no longer. We may see that to enjoy and deserve our spectacular and joyous consciousness we are bound to move beyond creature-driven inclinations.

Here’s an example we probably already understand: our biology wants us to eat as many calories as we can; to stretch out in the sun for hours at a time; to intoxicate and medicate ourselves. We manage these desires because they no longer serve us, at the same time as we are learning not to judge those who cannot.

But our biology has other, more pernicious demands. It seems to want us to amass more than we need, of everything, even when we no longer face scarcity. Does this still serve, to act as though we are at risk?

Does our biology also, in the service of this perceived scarcity, want us to aggregate and define one group of humans or another as “not us,” so that we can justify taking what might be theirs? And at the risk of over-extending this morning’s tiny framework, does our biology remember that women and their babies used to depend on men to fight off enemies and hunt for food, and therefore urge painful anachronistic family and relationship patterns to persist?

If this is all true, then, then, can we at once forgive those who aren’t yet moving beyond their biology and yet insist that they do so? Insist, stubbornly and without outrage? In other words, the harm they cause may not be their fault but they have to change anyway.

On the other side of forgiveness love usually waits.


Some people are motivated by outrage. If that’s your constitution, I bow to your righteous anger. Let me know how I can help; we’ve all got to know ourselves because this is a long road and we’re all on different feet. I sustain stubborn love more easily than anger.

Have a good weekend.






37 Responses

  1. I have several Asian co-workers, all solid citizens, who are very open about living their lives carefully to avoid being harassed. It’s real. I can say that my Passport is not a required item in my pocketbook, but it’s something they all carry all the time.

  2. Thank you for this post. As I have casually scrolled through my social media these last weeks I’ve wondered why it has mostly been Asian Ammericans posting about the violence and racism they’ve been subjected to? Why is there no groundswell of support from non Asians?

    1. @kg, I am so sorry that’s been your experience. Nobody should have to face this without support from every group in the country. I’ve seen a swell of support on my Instagram and Twitter feeds, but maybe the people I follow are less representative than I knew, which is awful. If you would like some @s, please let me know.

  3. I don’t have the words to adequately express how much your support means to me. So, let me just say, “Thank you.”

  4. I’m outraged…and have been long before this abhorrent crime. But those who try to lasso “sex addiction” or “having a bad day” as an excuse (or biology) to explain away the slaughter of women or those of another culture leaps to another plane of insanity in our world. Oh, and then there are those who wrap their hate in the velvet glove of Jesus…

    1. @Missi Baker, You’ve made me think that another title for this post would have been, How To React When We Enter Another Plane Of Insanity. Thank you.

  5. All of this. I’m also experiencing outrage fatigue, but am not yet ready to move into forgiveness. (Especially when no remorse has been demonstrated.)

    As someone though who is suspicious of the convenient “biology” argument that some put forth to rationalize their prejudices and (bad) behavior, I’m much more on the “expect them to move beyond it” camp. I think it’s the least our shared humanity demands of us.

    1. @Susan Blakey, I think that any time anyone justifies prejudices they deserve full-on scrutiny. I’ll listen, but I will very likely try to deconstruct their argument to find the emotional underpinnings of what they insist is rational.

  6. If we act out of love and not fear, we will create a better world. As simplistic as it sounds, sometimes it’s simplicity that’s needed.

    Thanks for your courage in calling it out today because evil will triumph if good people do nothing.

  7. What a lovely post, one I needed to read. We need to forgive, and remember that forgiveness does not mean either forgetting or failing to hold accountable. What if that is what our humanity gives us? What elevates us is our ability to rise above base instinct. Many cannot, but it is not just that; many are not given much opportunity, and there is much in this world that encourages people to feed their own fears, often, appallingly, in the name of faith. I am not one who is physically capable of living in outrage, but to live in love also means to live in accountability and to hold up its principles with a firm hand. But you already told us that.

    1. @Mardel, Thank you very much. You articulated this so well. It’s a deep forgiveness, a holding back from declarations of evil, but it also expects our society to hold those accountable and enact the agree-upon consequences.

    1. @kg, That’s a terrible discussion, full of people who take statements about systemic racism as attacks on their own sense of self. That’s very specifically what we have to stop doing. You can believe that you’ve never in your life felt bias toward someone of another race (you probably have, but we’ll leave that aside for now) and still understand that the system is in your favor. You can be proud of everything you’ve accomplished, and feel deeply about the sacrifices you’ve made to get where you are, and still acknowledge that it would almost certainly have been harder were you of another race.

      And the statements like, “It’s just art, why are we bringing this us,” are so blockheaded I don’t know what to say.

      If I knew that blog community, I, as a white woman, would speak up trying to nudge people in the right direction. We who have trusted but unaware communities need to shoulder the burden of communicating. Shouldn’t be your task. Sending you love and support.

    2. @kg, Followed the link kg provided. The bloggers justifications were obscene. Literally took my breath away.

    3. Thank you so much for the feedback. I didn’t know if I was being overly sensitive when reading those comments. Laurel’s blog has a similar demographic to this one, I didn’t expect those comments. I guess it’s good people are being honest, at least it’s a snapshot of what people are thinking.
      Thank you for maintaining this blog all these years. I’ve been a reader since way back and I always know there will be civilised discourse and ideas shared here. Thank you for your kindness.

    4. @kg, You are so welcome. I agree, hard as it is, at least we know now. And it’s also clear that demographics can tell us only so much. I deeply appreciate you saying this is kindness on my part, but that would imply a distance from it all that I do not have. I feel these incidents as though they are part of my life and what hurts others like this hurts me. Never so much, of course, but this is more the support of a companion than the kindness of a friend. If that makes sense.

  8. Biology-driven acts might be forgiven, although I am not yet there. Deliberate acts and words intended to incite others to act on that biology? No, not forgivable.

    In my humble opinion.

    1. @Maryellen Reardon, I am thinking not to absolve people of responsibility for their acts, but to forgive them as human beings. I think I just have to feel some love and kindness or I crumple up into a ball and can’t move. I applaud the righteous anger, and I hope we can all make a difference together.

  9. No one deserves to be harassed or beaten! BUT…Jews are hurt in this type of crimes two to three times more than the Asians, depending on the city. I’m NOT jewish but I am a Christian that believes we need to protect ALL citizens!

    1. @NATALIE K, There is no reason to bring this up here. If we cannot internalize the idea that mourning one group’s pain does not negate the pain of another, or that acknowledging one group’s struggle doesn’t mean we feel no compassion for our own, we will stay stuck in this cycle of taking more than we need and defining every one outside our circles as other.

      This comment belongs below a post in which someone is denying that Jewish people are subject to violence just for being themselves. Not here.

  10. As you know, our daughter in law is Chinese. I worry about her. Currently, she bicycles to work, where she works hard to solve problems related to mental illness She has such a good heart. Such things are lost on those who hate others without even understanding the source of their hate. It comes from ignorance as well as some pain deep within themselves. Until we can understand that and address it, we are going to be caught in a cycle of hating the other.

    1. @Susan D., I agree with you completely. I know that having someone Asian in your close family takes this to another place. <3 And yes, what is the pain people carry that makes them so committed to ignoring someone else's wound?

  11. As this story unfolds I continue to be stunned that it is not being treated as a hate crime, and the police seem to have some sympathy for the shooter. I cannot imagine “sex addiction” being used as an excuse for any other race/ethnicity of victims or shooters.

    1. @Lynn, It reminds me of George Moscone’s murder, and the way the man who hated homosexuality used Twinkies as his defense. I’m also wondering if maybe we talk about the way the Asian community feels, centering the victim, and de-emphasize the technical terms of hate crime etc., if people who are willfully ignoring this would have to open their hearts more.

  12. I am soothed immensely by reading the comments here ! I am half Asian myself altho’ an American friend has told me I am not really Asian because not Korean/Japanese/Chinese . Which tells me that power is so often power to name , to define and yes to stereotype .
    I was horrified by the comments on lauren’s blog and not so keen on her post tbh . I thought I had read plenty of racist stuff before but clearly not enough in this particular impervious-to-others genre .

    1. @Rukshana Afia, Power is so often power to name, and sometimes can only be retaken by saying the true name over and over again. Thank you. I am glad this community can provide some soothing, it’s the least we can do.

  13. Hi Lisa: You posted a pretty beaded bracelet some time ago and I can’t find it on your blog. It was beads and gold if I remember correctly. Would you remind me of the designer? Thanks

  14. The comments are very interesting.What is the group that is relevant here? “Asians” would seem to be a census fiction in almost every direction (racially, economically, culturally, religiously…). In feeling sympathy and outrage for the Atlanta victims, “Asian” is not a box that means anything to me. And if “Asians” is the right box, isn’t one thing we should do be the elimination of Asian discrimination at educational institutions? How does one even begin to justify that ethically?

  15. Man is far too tribal.
    It seems like eventually it’s your turn. Muslim, gay, Jewish, Afro-American, American Indian, Hispanic Asian, . . .
    I have no answers but awareness in myself and that hope that my vote and voice matter.


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