Tamir Rice: A Childhood Denied, Supremacist Rule Preserved, For Now… | #BlackLivesMatter on Blog#42

Yet another case we were promised would result in justice, intentionally ran its course to cold, calculated injustice. The Tamir Rice file was handed over to Cuyahoga County for investigation and prosecution, we were told, to ensure impartiality and freedom from conflict of interest. This is the same promise that was made when Michael Brown’s case was investigated and then turned over to a grand jury in Missouri. In both cases, we ended up with prosecutors who acted, pretty much, using the same technique of burying the jurors in an avalanche of evidence, with no real intention to ever prosecute murderous cops.

But if there were any mitigating circumstances that might, somehow, have been construed by a group of humans to go the way of the police officer in Mike Brown’s case – and I am of the view that there weren’t – then what mitigating circumstance could there possibly be in the minds of humans in the case of a child playing at a playground? What precept of morality exists that condones the split-second judgment to fire a weapon by an officer who just arrived at a children’s playground? What precept of justice and truth-seeking is there that allows for defendants to read from prepared statements and aren’t required to undergo examination? What precept of justice is there for an attorney to only seek out the testimonies of three experts who would justify killing a child? What precept of justice is there for secret proceedings whose only purpose, it seems, is to prevent the service of justice in an open court?

It has been heartbreaking to find, case after case, that community after community refuses, if even only for the briefest of moments, to summon up some shred of morality and bring justice to the most flagrant of cases. But the real kicker is when all our US Department of Justice can do, on one of the saddest of days, is to put out such a negative statement. What can one feel other than outrage?

This case revealed many deficiencies within the Cleveland police department, the most glaring of which, it turns out, may well be the hiring process by which Officer Loehman was able to become a member of the Cleveland police force:

Surely, a civil rights lawsuit by the US Department of Justice could include, among the many institutional failings in this case, an examination of hiring practices and Officer Loehman’s fitness to make split-second decisions? But when the grand jury renders its decision and the supposedly even-handed prosecutor who was specially chosen to seek justice doubles down on injustice by blaming the victim, we know justice wasn’t sought.

In his press conference, Prosecutor McGinty justified the lynching of a Black child with his use of descriptive code language intended to invoke notions of the “Magical Negro” in exactly the same way Officer Darren Wilson, who stands at 6’3, intentionally likened himself to a five year old facing a “demon” when describing his encounter with Michael Brown.

It is clear that it was not the purpose of this grand jury exercise to seek truth in the summary execution of a child in the one place all kids are expected to be kids, but to defend and justify it by denying Tamir Rice the right to his very childhood, in the same way Michael Brown was denied his humanity.

Just as Michael Brown and Laquan McDonald would have survived their encounters with police had they been white, just as Sandra Bland would have suffered the same fate as the white girl in the traffic stop before hers, so too would have Tamir, had he been just another big white boy playing cops and robbers at his playground.

In, “Most police officers who kill aren’t charged. But charges are getting more common,” Vox’s Dara Lind writes:

Many feel the decision is a miscarriage of justice, and a symbol of how the criminal justice system gives entirely too much deference to cops who shoot people, especially people of color.

That might be true. But high-profile incidents where officers aren’t indicted, like this case in Cleveland — or aren’t convicted, like the Baltimore police officer whose trial in the death of Freddie Gray resulted in a hung jury earlier this month — might be obscuring a broader change in the system. There’s evidence that prosecutors really have been more willing, in 2015, to charge police officers with crimes for use of force than they were in previous years.

There is no such evidence. If anything, we have reached a point where, out of self-preservation, the dual  system of justice that was originally put in place has simply adapted to new realities in which the advent of emancipation, granting of civil rights, all the way to the present day and the full display of excesses in the sunlight are countered by going through the motions of justice-seeking with grand juries that are rigged to fail. There continue to be two moralities, two sets of expectations, two sets of allowances, two sets of norms, two sets of humanities and, now, two sets of childhoods – all left up to the eye of the beholder.

It isn’t police or criminal justice reform that we need, for reform implies fixing. What is needed is the demolition of what we have in place in favor of new institutions, based not on the perpetuation of white supremacy, but the creation of a new foundation for an equal society. No institution should be spared, especially not those that define how we manage our democracy, or how we pass down our democratic traditions.


 

Additional sources:

From The Chicago Tribune: The power of video and police use of force