The Peacekeeper: A Simple but Powerful Gesture

Herman Engel was out for a walk with his wife in lower Manhattan. As the couple was crossing the street at the corner, a speeding car screeched to a halt, missing them by inches. In fear and rage, Engel slammed his fist on the hood of the car. Furious, the young man driving the car got out, shouting, “Why’d you hit my car?” Engel shouted back, “You nearly killed my wife and me!”

A crowd gathered. Engel was white, the driver was black, and suddenly the scene took on racial overtones. As people began to take sides, it looked as if the situation might escalate into a full-scale brawl.

Then Engel noticed behind him an onlooker, an older black man. The man’s hand, palm down, was slowly moving up and down, as if to say to the young driver, “Okay, now, cool it.” The young man visibly struggled to control himself, then suddenly walked back to his car, got in, and drove off without another word.

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