The shocking and tragic shooting of Tamir Rice in November 2014 incited much public outrage, particularly as it came after a series of racially-charged incidents of police brutality, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Rice’s death was all the more horrific because he was a young, 12-year-old boy—how could anyone possibly justify this shooting?
Cleveland’s grand jury found a way—just yesterday, they declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Rice seconds after seeing him with a toy gun. Both the shooting and failure of the justice system to respond are mired in systemic injustice and racial hypocrisy that will be incredibly difficult to overcome and eliminate; however, by drawing attention to these underlying, root causes, it may make small, incremental steps toward transforming the societal mindset.
A photo of one of Tamir Rice’s alleged classmates that is being shared on Twitter may help with this, as it perfectly exemplifies the racism that undoubtedly contributed to Rice’s death.
A young, white girl is standing in front of the Cudell Recreation Center gazebo where Rice was shot, holding a sign that says, "Would you have shot me if I was standing here playing with a toy gun?"
Rice’s death has been justified by claims by the officers involved that he looked “big for his age,” or that he was pointing the gun at them. Neither of these excuse the shooting, because what Rice’s classmate says rings completely true—if a white child were in his situation, there would have been no shooting or death. The shooting of Rice was indisputably fueled by fear and racism.
Loehmann’s trial demonstrated the reluctance of any officials to claim police responsibility for the shooting—Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGint defended the incident as a “perfect storm of human error,” while Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer for Tamir’s mother, Samira Rice, stated, “We have never seen a prosecutor try so hard to lose a case.”
Both our police and justice system utterly failed Rice, as well as many other black individuals who have suffered similar fates. The heartbreaking photo of Rice’s classmate encompasses this truth.
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @mohammedzismail