A PERSPECTIVE...The Tamir Rice Tragedy & The Insight of Howard Thurman

From Gil Caldwell

"Reports from two outside experts who examined the use of deadly force in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer, concluded the shooting was ‘reasonable’” (ABC News).

From JESUS and THE DISINHERITED, by Howard Thurman*, 1949:

"The children of the disinherited live a restricted childhood. From their earliest moments they are conditioned so as to reduce their exposure to violence. In Felix Staten's BAMBI, the old stag counsels Bambi, giving to him in great detail a pattern of behavior that will reduce his chance of being shot without an opportunity for escape. He teaches him to distinguish human scent, the kinds of exposure that may be deadly, what precise kind of behavior is relatively safe. The stag is unwilling to leave Bambi until he is sure that the young deer has made his body commit to memory ways of behaving that will protect and safeguard his life."

How do we teach our children "to distinguish (the) human scent" that is present in a white policeman, or a black gang member, who devalues the life and humanity of black life, so that they shoot to kill black children and young people, in response to their own anger and their fear?

*Howard Thurman was Dean of Marsh Chapel when I was a student at Boston University School of Theology, 1955-58. I re-read the above Howard Thurman quote from For The Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman, selected by Anne Spencer Thurman with an Introduction by Vincent Harding. I had not looked at the book since the death of Vincent Harding. As I read these words written by Vincent when I opened the book, they evoked/provoked memory and tears as I remembered with deep fondness, Vincent Harding:

For my brother Gil -------------------- with great appreciation For our friendship And our common path Vincent 9/18/98   

Reflections on the Life and Death of Nelson Mandela

The brutality of apartheid as depicted in the scenes that are presented on television, or painted by radio accounts, reminds us again of how despite our rhetoric about humanity and justice, and justice for all, our deeds too often are quite distant from our creeds. And, for those of us who claim and are claimed by religious faith, we see again how the silence of the majority of the faithful and their institutions, in the face of injustice, reveals how frightened and fragile are these religious/spiritual institutions.

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