How can I say, “I forgive you” to a system that has oppressed my people for a long time.  I am a “person of color” and it is my understanding that to forgive involves a concrete, flesh-and-blood other person.  This is not the case with a system.

You are correct that you are unable to say directly to a system, “I forgive you.”  It sometimes is the same with concrete, “flesh and blood” other people.  For example, you can forgive from your heart without words to a person who abandons you, whom you now cannot see.  When you forgive a system it can be from the heart and from the actions you take toward that system.  After all, systems are made up of people and people create norms that can be hurtful to some groups in that system.  So, you are able to forgive the system if this is your choice.  It is more abstract than forgiving one concrete, “flesh and blood” other person, but you can extend kindness and generosity to  the unseen others who established and continue with unfair norms.  Of course, this does not mean that you give up the quest for justice.  Forgiveness and justice exist side by side.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

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