This reflection was originally posted on July 6, 2016.
“My first reaction was Tamir Rice, and we called 911.” He added, “I commend Parma for a quick response, and I commend everybody for going home safe. Parents need to start talking to their kids, too, about the safety of guns. And if you’re using a toy gun, have the orange tip on.”
For those of my friends not from NEOH, Parma is a 93% white, albeit primarily working-class, suburb of Cleveland. Both children in this case are white.
It’s almost as if the two kids in the video raise their hands and immediately cooperate with the police because they believe that is their safest course of action. It’s almost as if the Alton Sterlings of the world observe police interactions through a different lens because of mountains of evidence that they will not necessarily be treated the same way. It’s almost as if pushing the onus back on children to learn how to appear nonthreatening is a thinly veiled attack premised on the myth that Black parents are somehow worse at their jobs (which has been proven repeatedly invalid in the face of far greater challenges than white parents face).
It’s almost as if calling 911 to relay nearly identical facts as in the Tamir Rice call shouldn’t be the lesson you take from the shooting death of a twelve-year-old boy. It’s almost as if, given that and given your praise of “everybody” for going home safe when you are aware only the police had the ability to kill in this situation, that you simply do not expect the police safeguard the lives of literal children anymore. It’s almost as if, regardless of the intentions you have, you have internalized a society where police killings are not only common but expected in a normal interaction.
We are here. We are in a place where the color of your skin affects people’s decisions, from snap judgments, to post hoc justifications, to literal corporate policy (something something Marked Safe something Baghdad). That alone is damaging enough, but in a world where people have the power to literally take lives in the blink of an eye, the inability to even mention race a single time has literal life-or-death consequences.
I fully expect the judge, if either child in this case devotes a portion of their report to racial disparities (and I do mean a head-on acceptance of the role of race in these incidents rather than coded “we-don’t-live-in-a-blighted-neighborhood” gestures at privilege-checking), to somehow make clear to them that it’s “not nice” to think that way. I won’t hold my breath for a pleasant surprise.