I watched the surveillance video of the last minutes of Tamir Rice’s life, and although the video was dark and grainy, what shone through brightly for me in the beginning was the innocence of childhood. A young boy playing alone in the park, his imagination his only companion.
I lived those days as a child. I even played with toy guns. Sure, they were colored water pistols, but they were shaped like guns. For a great portion of America, those in particular who do not fear being mistakenly shot on the streets where they live, playing with toy guns is widely accepted and extremely popular. But for an African-American boy in 2014 it is seen as nefarious, an indictment of his character or upbringing, a referendum on his future actions, subject to punishment.
In the case of Tamir Rice, the punishment was death.
The video starts out G-rated, but in mere minutes, too short for even a warning or the registering of a threat, it becomes an X-rated film of violence. A police car races up to the child, stopping only yards from his feet. Seemingly before the officer’s own feet can even touch the ground, Tamir Rice is knocked from his stance by two gunshots to his belly. He lay on the ground for over four minutes before someone attempted to offer any medical assistance. Four life-draining minutes.
Tamir Rice was pronounced dead at the hospital the very next day. He was just 12 years old, barely over 4400 days spent on this earth. Another victim. A drop in the bucket. He’d only just begun, and then it was over.
Why? Why? Why in the world did this happen? I don’t want to hear excuses about toy guns, or the fact that the 911 caller expressed that he thought the gun was fake but that information wasn’t passed along to the officers. I don’t even want to hear that the officer feared for his life because Tamir, a child, put his hand at his waistband.
Those are all excuses, cop-outs if you will pardon the pun. No scratch that, don’t pardon it at all. There is nothing pardonable about any of this. HE WAS PLAYING IN THE PARK! You know that thing that so many childhood experts say is important to the development of a child: imaginative play, unplugged from a screen, outdoors in the fresh air.
He was doing everything we tell kids they’re supposed to do, and he died for it. No, scratch that too. He didn’t die for being a kid, he died for being a black kid. No, scratch that again. He died for being black, period.
Because the notion of being a black kid, of being innocent, is a luxury our black and brown children don’t have. The denial of black humanity is fast eradicating any existence of real childhood for black children in America.
From an early age, we have to teach or sons and daughters about the unfairness of the world, the inequity. We don’t get to just teach them about stranger-danger, we have to teach them about the danger that their own skin represents to them, because of the racism in our society. A society so bent with hatred that it openly equates black people with demons, thugs, charging bulls, negative forces that must be put down before they can do any of the damage they are expected to inevitably do.
How do we teach our black and brown children that the sky is the limit for their dreams when they are limited in the amount of sky that they are allowed to look up at, and even for how long they are permitted to be on this earth to dream in the first place?
“Black America has again been reminded that its children are not seen as worthy of being alive — in part because they are not seen as children at all, but as menacing threats to white lives.
America does not extend the fundamental elements of childhood to black boys and girls. Black childhood is considered innately inferior, dangerous and indistinguishable from black adulthood. Black children are not afforded the same presumption of innocence as white children, especially in life-or-death situations.” – Stacey Patton, Washingtonpost.com
I’m angry. I’m so very angry that this child was denied all that white children are promised simply by nature of being born — the chance to live out their lives.
I’m grieving for Tamir. I’m grieving for all of the lost days of play for him, and the children that will come after him.
Something must change. It must change now so that no more young lives are cut short. There are so many more miles to be traveled, dreams to fulfill, but they take time, a lifetime. A lifetime is what every child deserves. Stop killing our future. Let them live.
Photo via ABC NewsMore On