Written in 1949, Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited still shouts into our conscience if we will listen. Now seems to be the time to hear.
He relates the story of Goliath and how the presence and threat of Goliath held Israel at bay. It was the threat of violence ingrained into the Israelites that held them back until David went into the battle. The threat is ingrained because there was a history of violence at some point.
“The disinherited experience the disintegrating effect of contempt in some fashion such as did Goliath. There are few things more devastating than to have it burned into you that you do not count an that no provisions are made for the literal protection of your person. The threat of violence is ever present, and there is not way to determine precisely when it may come crushing down upon you. In modern power politics this is called the war of nerves. The underprivileged in any society are the victims of a perpetual war of nerves. The logic of the state of affairs is physical violence, but it need not fulfill itself in order to work its perfect havoc in the souls of the poor.”
It is the constant threat of violence tied with an act (or acts) of violence perpetrated in the past that can keep marginalized people stuck in the margins. It is wearying. It attacks the self-worth and dignity of those on the margins. It diminishes their view (and those in the role of the powerful) of who they really are: humans made in the image of God.