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Another blow has been struck against confidence in the criminal justice system in America. A grand jury decided not to indict the two officers whose actions on November 22, 2014 led to the death of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Officer Garmback drove the police cruiser and Officer Loehman jumped out of the vehicle before it had even stopped. Within two seconds, Loehman, who is white, had shot Rice, who is black. The boy later died in the hospital. Explanations for why the officers reacted the way they did raise even more questions and controversy. Finally, after over a year of investigation, jurors decided the incident did not merit a trial to test the justice of the officer’s actions.

As citizens who value the rule of law we can neither condemn all police officers nor disregard the process that led to a non-indictment. The solution to injustice is not more injustice. Righteous indignation cannot devolve into lawless action. But if we can’t repudiate the criminal justice system, its personnel or its processes altogether, neither can we disregard its failure to honor the dignity of African American men, women, boys, and girls.

In the course of weeks and months, the sting of this non-indictment will fade. It is likely another tragedy will occur to reopen wounds that never completely healed. And it is those wounds to which we, as a society, must attend.

The death of Tamir affected more than his family, the city of Cleveland, or its police force. His death affected all Americans, especially those of African descent. The decision not to indict deepens the cut and scars the soul of any black person with enough emotional fortitude to reflect on these events and their implications. I am one of those who have chosen to reflect, and I am not alone. Below I have included my lament and two others (originally posted on Facebook) for our black sons. These reactions reveal that the legacy of Tamir Rice’s death and the non-indictment of the officers responsible is the constant fear of simply existing as a black person in America.


From Jemar
This one really hurts. My beautiful, black boy is five years old right now. Statistics say that by the age of 10 people will, on average, perceive him to be four years older than he is and as more likely to be guilty of a felony. When he and his eight year old cousin, another African American male, play together in public spaces, I see the looks, the glances, the apprehension. Such experiences will only increase in frequency and seriousness as they get older. Being young and black in America is authentically deadly. My heart wastes away, and my soul weeps. Yet I will trust in the Lord.
from John
To know that every time I walk in a Toys ‘R Us with him he may leave disappointed that he couldn’t get anything that looks remotely close to a gun (or projectile weapon) hurts as a father. But a Hot Wheels car set is safer for him.
To know that he senses dad’s palpable fear when dad passes a cop and dad’s hands tense up on the wheel is dehumanizing as a father. But a healthy fear is safer than an unhealthy fantasy (read: there are no race issues with the boys in blue).
Yet, he learns these rules daily. As much of a rite of passage as the birds and bees conversation between black fathers and their boys. This is our reality. Praying for the Rice family and their community.
From Tyler
One day, I hope to have a son. When he is 12, I pray this country sees his humanity, his dignity, his potential, his intrinsic worth. I pray his life isn’t casually diminished. I pray his existence is protected by the values this nation insists it truly believes.
I pray police handcuffs never hug his wrists, but if they do, I pray he is treated as a human being not animal. I pray he never picks up anything that looks like a weapon, but if he does, I pray he is given a reasonable chance to put it down. I pray he never stands in front of a judge, but if he does, I pray he receives proper legal representation. I pray that his father doesn’t just hopefully offer prayers without petitioning, acting and marching for every living kid who looks like he will.
I pray that America gives my son the justice it hasn’t extended to ‪#‎TamirRice‬. And I have to pray, because America has yet to prove to me, or to us, that it will.

Psalm 42:1-5

1As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

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