In Response To: A Harlot's Homecoming

The Burden of Forgiveness

Five weeks after the election, I embraced a friend who had broken down in tears speaking about Donald Trump, her family, the safety of her body and those of her loved ones.

When I look back on this moment, I see in her sorrow the same despair that has plagued marginalized communities for far longer than any single body could attempt to remember. What many do not understand is exactly this  that this terror, this pain, this anxiety is not new. When a woman of color or a queer person has a moment of explicit anguish such as this one, what many do not realize is that such anguish is always present, simply controlled, kept invisible under years of navigating a world that wants nothing more than to commodify, manage, and wage war against bodies deemed criminal by virtue of their existence.

Doesn’t it follow, then, that out of such prolonged anguish may emerge an anger that is righteous, just like the righteous wrath cited in “A Harlot’s Homecoming”? The anger that has reared its head over the past several weeks is not aimless; it is a visceral reaction that is difficult and damaging to suppress. It allows marginalized communities to commiserate and seek solace with others who are feeling the same fear and anger.

In some of this anger, I also see hope, expectation, and a call to action  what may be called, in religious terms, a “restoration to holiness.” The anger we have seen challenges those in power: now what will you do? It asks for an acknowledgement of the decades of atrocities committed against the marginalized; along with that, it asks for concrete action from those who are in a position to take such steps. It challenges: now that we have arrived at such a political moment, what will you do to step into your role as an ally? What will you do to support us? These questions reveal the vulnerability characteristic of righteous wrath. They acknowledge the difficulty of the position in which marginalized groups have found themselves. They confess something that is frequently uttered only through gritted teeth: we need your support.

Thus, if anger on the part of the disenfranchised is a rightful and logical response, what is not? In the days and weeks following the election, I have seen in newspapers, articles, and social media calls for forgiveness for those who ushered in Trump’s election. This prompt raises in me not anger, not sadness, but weariness. I think that in asking people to forgive, we must also remember: these are not new atrocities. Trump’s election is, as CNN’s Van Jones stated, a whitelash;1 it is a product of years of racism, a outbreak from a buildup of discomfort from white folks who detect a threat to their racial privilege. Requesting forgiveness is not a novel demand, but that does not make it a reasonable one. It is a request to tolerate ignorance and discrimination. It is a command that queer folks look the homophobic in the eye, that people of color look the racist in the eye and pardon a history of microaggressions and of hate crimes that have slaughtered their communities. My classmate outwardly experiencing this fear, these atrocities, is not a singular act. It is a storm that rages just below the skin of every individual who has ever occupied a body that is seen undeserving, as somehow less than human.

So what is an appropriate response to such anger?

Let us mourn. Let us do this without asking for an explanation. It may be the first time we have been able to do so. And stand with us. Know that our anger reveals a vulnerability that stretches over decades and decades. Once this has been accomplished, only then can we, together, attempt to fight on.


1. Ryan, Josiah. “‘This was a whitelash’: Van Jones’ take on the election results.” CNN, November 9, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/politics/van-jones-results-disappointment-cnntv/ (accessed December 26, 2016).

Morgan Wu is a junior studying psychology and English. She plans on being a therapist. Her financially secure backup plan is to be a writer. In her spare time, she can be found drinking too much coffee and panicking about her future.