The Terms of Forgiveness for Racism


Carl Leonard, Literary Journalist

There is no definite answer to whether all acts of racism are forgivable or not. Either way, racism is wrong and was created to not only oppress people of color but to separate the rich from the poor. Racism is still affecting people to this day, neighborhoods and schools are still segregated, even though it’s not as apparent as it used to be. In my opinion, based on recent literature we’ve read, acts of racism should only be deemed forgivable or unforgivable depending on the severity of those actions. The terms of severity should be based on, mental health, and the type of actions.

Should someone be punished for actions that they couldn’t even control? The answer to that question is no, a person who is unstable mentally should not be fully blamed for shouting racial slurs because they’re not fully conscious of their actions. One example of a person who had a combination of mental health issues and racism was Mrs. Dubose in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. She would criticize Scout and Jem because their father was the only white lawyer that would defend a black man and would yell things at them such as, “nigger-lovers”. This reason shows that people with mental illnesses should be forgiven for racist actions they’ve committed, even though it may be wrong.

Moreover, saying something to someone is different from acting upon a person physically. For instance, a white person who calls a black person a “nigger” today may not get them in as much legal trouble as per se, a member of the KKK shooting a group of black people or beating them up. Of course, saying something racist is still wrong as well and should not be condoned. The difference between hateful words against someone and hateful, physical actions is that a victim has more control over how they handle it. Hateful, physical actions are more severe than hateful words because the effects cannot be reversed or ignored, this is forced upon a person and they don’t have a choice over how they would handle it. Furthermore, the case for Trayvon Martin shows that actions speak louder than words, if George Zimmerman hadn’t pulled that trigger, Trayvon probably would have been alive today, Trayvon had no choice of what could have happened or how he reacted. Cases like this would most likely be seen as unforgivable for the attacker because of the permanent effect of it.

In conclusion, the discussion of whether all acts of racism are unforgivable or not should depend on mental health and the type of actions fueled by racism. This is because there are broad ranges of how racism is exerted. This means that some racist actions are less or more severe than others. Overall, it would be too difficult to fit all racism into one category of forgivable or unforgivable.