Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2020

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science


Political Science & International Relations


Timothy McCarty


Forgiveness is traditionally seen as an inherently virtuous act, but contemporary anti-racist activists have pointed to repeated high-profile examples of Black people forgiving white people for unspeakably violent and racist actions to call into question our normative understanding of forgiveness’s meaning, and implications. For this reason, this project critically analyzes the political implications of interracial Black forgiveness, to understand how its significance goes beyond merely being an expression of grace, and instead helps to define, and re-substantiate current and future race relations. The goal of this thesis is to conceptualize the ways in which acts of Black racial forgiveness function to reinforce white supremacy. It is hypothesized that interracial Black forgiveness maintains white supremacy by preserving the status quo of white “racial comfort.” By redefining interracial Black forgiveness as a quotidian act of violence, this paper seeks to confront some of the most deeply held beliefs in American democracy. Ultimately, this conceptualization of Black racial forgiveness disrupts conventional wisdom on the efficacy of radical love, weaponized faith, and prevailing democratic norms.