Yesterday former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of 18 counts of rape and other forms of sexual violence. His victims were poor black women, age 17-50, in the community he was charged with protecting.
He preyed on these marginalized women because he thought no one would take their allegations of wrongdoing seriously. Apparently since there were 13 known victims, it took quite a while before anyone did.
I noticed Holtzclaw cried yesterday at the reading of the jury’s verdict. I wonder if I have ever had less sympathy for someone’s tears.
However, I am praying for him today, that his heart and his soul might be healed of whatever horror possesses him. And I am most certainly praying for the women he terrorized and harmed, particularly after Holtzclaw’s attorneys predictably centered their defense strategy on defaming the victims.
In his violence, Holtzclaw brutally denied the value, the dignity, and the humanity of his victims – in a world that already systemically conveyed that message to them because of who they are.
I am working hard against my own temptation to view him as a monster. For the minute I do so, I strip away not only a sense of his humanity, but I also shred my own conviction that I must recognize the full humanity of all people. All people. Even the ones who commit monstrous acts. Even the ones who are so damaged that we (and they themselves) cannot see how they too are made in God’s image.
I am glad that some form of justice was done, whether or not it was complete (apparently the jury did not believe some of the complainants). I am glad that Holtzclaw will be sent to prison for his deeds – and hopefully with the full force of the law will serve a long sentence. I still have no sympathy for his tears. I have a whole heart of sympathy for his victims.
And I keep reminding myself: our casual cultural impulse to dehumanize is a part of the root problem.
I must thus continue in my effort not to dehumanize him in my own heart and mind.
An important task, but not an easy one.