Let’s face some facts. We have made tremendous progress in reducing the torments of discrimination and isolation and oppression as results of racism. However, there is still a very long way to go. We are still imprisoned more often, less well educated, dying faster, more underemployed, more financially compromised and more stressed out than our white counterparts in these United States of America.

Truth is, we are a long way from that “post racial” society the mainstream media are trying to claim has arrived. There are persistent and growing efforts to have the Supreme Court eliminate the laws that were designed to help us recover from the many long decades of unfair treatment.

• School segregation is now more prevalent than it was at the time of the Supreme Court decision declaring it illegal.
• Affirmative Action has been attacked on all fronts and has pushed back everywhere until it is now virtually non-existent anywhere.
• Police officers still kill unarmed black men with impunity and suffer no negative consequences.
• We are sent to prison more often with longer sentences than whites who commit the same crimes. The mandatory sentence for crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine was 100 to 1 before 2010. In 2011, the disparity was reduced, but is still 18 to 1.
• It is still easier for a white man who is an ex-convict to get a job than it is for a black man with equal or better qualifications and no criminal history.
• The efforts to suppress or eliminate our voting power were blatant in this last election and the push to block us is gaining more ground.

So, there are a lot of reasons – justifiable reasons – for us to be angry and resentful. It is obvious that African Americans are still very much viewed as second class citizens and there seems to be a pervasive attitude that is where we belong.

Yet, in the midst of all this downward pressure still being exerted upon us, there are very strong reasons to forgive those who would see us as less than human and a drain on society. Even those who want to see us pushed all the way back into slavery!

Admittedly, their sometimes vicious animosity may be a reason for us to echo the feeling, but the fact is that does us more harm than good. In actuality, all that does is make our condition worse!

I’m talking about science here – medical science. According to medical and psychological research, anger doesn’t hurt the one it is aimed at. It hurts the one who carries it! Anger, resentment, the desire for revenge, blind bitterness and unharnessed hatred are powerful generators of destructive chemical reactions within the body. Reactions that raise our blood pressure, boil our organs in corrosive acids, cloud our vision, hamper our judgment and cripple us psychologically. Basically, by harboring hatred, anger and resentment, we take over the job destroying ourselves and we do a much better job than those hostile outside force could ever hope to accomplish because we’re doing it from the inside.

We’ve become walking time bombs that, given just the right situation that provokes tension and fear, could explode in the form of heart attacks, strokes, suicide or even murder.

So let’s give this some serious thought. Is that the way we really want to live? Has hatred ever brought good? Has anger ever created hope? Has revenge ever really resolved problems, or given anything more than a brief surge of emotion that quickly fades?

The simple answer to all those questions is “NO!”

Really the sure way out of all that darkness and negativity is something called Forgiveness. Of course, so many of us view forgiveness as an act of weakness. Some even feel that forgiveness is a way of condoning the actions against us.

Those beliefs are erroneous. First of all the beliefs that forgiveness is an act between two parties is not actually true. In truth, forgiveness is an internal process that doesn’t have to involve the participation anyone else! The term ‘forgive’ derives from ‘give’ or to ‘grant’, as in ‘to give up,’ or ‘cease to harbor (resentment, wrath).’ More specifically, ‘forgive’ refers to the act of giving up a feeling, such as resentment, or a claim to requital or compensation. To forgive is to let go of the pain, to turn release the damage that is being done to you internally. It doesn’t mean facing the offender or even physically involving the offender at all. Forgiveness is between you and God, not you and the other person! Release the pain and move on with your life. You’ve got better things to do.

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn't the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you more peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness takes away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

According to Catherine Ponder, a best-selling author on the power of mind, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bishop Desmond Tutu when talking about forgiveness of the atrocities of apartheid in South Africa, “In forgiving, people are not being asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. It means taking what happened seriously…drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens our entire existence.”

Dr. Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, has done extensive research into the physical and psychological effects of forgiveness. He has conducted several studies within the last 10 years which found that the practice of forgiveness has positive ramifications in three areas: physical, psychological, and economic.

The physical effects were as follows:
• 27% reduction in the physical symptoms of stress/backache, dizziness, sleeplessness, headache, stomach upset, etc.,
• 12% increase in physical vitality (energy level, appetite, sleep patterns)

Although, not mentioned specifically in this study, stress directly causes an increase in blood pressure. Furthermore, when one risk factor is coupled with other stress producing factors, the effect on blood pressure is multiplied. Overall, studies show that stress does not directly cause hypertension, but can have an effect on its development.

• 15% decrease in emotional experience of stress;
• 42% decrease in feelings of depression
• 35% increase in self-confidence,
• 22% increase in feelings of hope,
• 28% increase in optimism, and

• 13% increase in production based on a study done in a corporation

In that economic study with marketing executives, those who took the forgiveness training showed an average increase in productivity of 24%, which was contrasted with only a 10% increase in sales earned by those who did not take the same training. In addition the stress levels of the 87 participants who completed the training decreased 23% over the length of the project while their reported positive emotional states increased 20% over the duration of the project. Quality of life, anger and physical vitality measures also demonstrated statistically significant positive change.

What it boils down to is if you're unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can't enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you're at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.

So, think about the effect of the negative emotions brought to you by racism. Think about it!

We are at a time when the opportunities available to us are greater than they have ever been in this country. Anger and resentment diminish our power. At this time, we need every ounce of power and focus we can bring to the game of life. Remember the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”


Author's Bio: 

Rev. Andrew L. Bozeman is an ordained minister working to bring mental and spiritual empowerment to people-of-color around the world. He is currently focused on the total revitalization of Bayview Hunters Point, a multi-racial, multi-cultural population in the Southeaster corner of San Francisco, California. He founded Bozeman Development Group as a way to continue his ministry in the merging of spiritual empowerment and economic development. Bozeman Development Group is an African American publishing and production company dedicated to the spiritual, psychological and economic elevation of the more than 40 million African Americans living in the United States of America. This objective will be accomplished by creating and marketing products designed to support African Americans in eliminating the negative effects of racism, elevating self-esteem, generating entrepreneurial endeavors, building and promoting African American commercial centers, rebuilding African American communities, revitalizing the African American economy and improving their quality of life. The products of the Bozeman Development Group consist of books (printed and electronic), magazines (printed and electronic), live seminars, workshops, expositions and entertainment events, online blogs, video tutorials, inspirational, informative and uplifting films and videos, internet radio and TV programming.