By Greg Jarrell
On Monday, Dec. 28, Timothy McGinty, district attorney of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, announced what everyone suspected, and many hoped would not be true — that there will be no charges in the slaying of 12-year old Tamir Rice by Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann while Tamir played in a Cleveland park. Among the key facts of the case:
• The surveillance video shows Loehmann shooting the child less than two seconds after the police car pulls up.
• The video shows the officers ignoring the child as he lay dying, in need of first aid.
• The video shows the officers tackle and handcuff the child’s sister — also a child — when she rushes to comfort and assist him.
• McGinty, Loehmann and Loehmann’s partner all stress that Tamir was big for his age, which is coded language for the racist assumption of black criminality.
• McGinty concluded, and recommended to the grand jury, that the officers should not be charged because they “acted reasonably.”
In light of this, there remains only one choice for people of goodwill: abandon reason.
If the fruit of reason is the death of children, and the subsequent blaming of those children for their own deaths, then we will need a different rationality.
If the systems we have constructed, based upon reason, are leading us to the genocide of African-American peoples — and they are — then reason can be discarded.
If the results of our reasoning keep us chained to a history of white supremacy that we can barely stand to acknowledge, and that thrives while unacknowledged, then we ought to cast out reason and drive it off a cliff into the ocean.
If I sound unreasonable at the moment, then good.
Malcolm X said it this way: “What is logical to the oppressor isn’t logical to the oppressed. And what is reason to the oppressor isn’t reason to the oppressed. Black people in this country are beginning to realize that what sounds reasonable to those who exploit us doesn’t sound reasonable to us. There just has to be a new system of reason and logic devised by us who are at the bottom.”
Those of us, like me, who are not at the bottom, think we are free. But we cannot be free until what Malcolm calls for — nothing less than a new system of reason — takes root in our minds and hearts. And even if it never takes to our minds and hearts — even if we are never free — it must take root in our so-called justice system, because whatever we have now is slaughtering our children, and no one is ever responsible.
On the Christian calendar, Dec. 28 marks the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This remembrance recalls all those innocent children slaughtered by Herod as he hunted the Messiah, born in his region. The idea behind the feast day is not to add to the roster of Holy Innocents, which seems like something that should go without saying. The reasoning for the feast is that the lives of every single one of the little black and brown children that Herod slaughtered mattered. Their lives are to be celebrated even today, for all of the birthdays they did not have, the proms they did not go to, the graduations they could not attend, the children they could not raise, the care they could not give to their aging parents. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is one way for the Church to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. This is a reasoning worth building on.
As the earth begins to awaken from its longest night, we are in an ancient season of feasting for the Light come into our darkness. But this darkness feels very dark. The feast is hard to keep on this Dec. 28. Perhaps we celebrate later. Now is a moment for fasting, for sackcloth and ashes.
Image: Icon of Rachel weeping