A few months ago, I published an article on TheVindi.com about my fear of what the decision of the Tamir Rice was going to be in Cleveland. I talked about the report that was released that stated that the shooting was deemed “reasonable”, and how this appalled many people. I expressed how I wanted to see more people in my city learning, listening and standing up. When the report came out a few months ago, many things happened. The CPD was not trusted anymore to investigate the case, and many people were demanding that a private investigator would be called in to review the case. Unfortunately, there was a anxiousness in my head that was telling me that the verdict would not be the one that the black community wanted.
On December 28th, 2015 the grand jury decided to not bring charges against the officers who killed Tamir Rice. The final decision was made by the justice department. After so many months of protests, anger and impatience, Tamir Rice’s family had still not received the justice they deserved.
The many arguments defending the police officer are still pouring in. People in defense of the officer are using the ultimate argument that “the officer was doing their job”. But after so many times that police brutality has taken far too many black lives, I think it’s time to analyze how exactly they are doing their job, and how they can do it better. Although it seems easy to just view these officers with the toughness of their job and the “tenseness of the situation”, it is not right to allow them to get away with a crime. I hear too many people hiding behind limited phrases like “damaged criminal justice system” and “flawed law enforcement”--which are true, but they are not adding on the most important piece of the puzzle; systematic and institutionalized racism. I can hear people in my own Cleveland community justifying the officer’s actions because the child was a “drug abuser” and came from a “troubled family”. As if even if any of that was true, it was justification enough for the boy to be shot dead with no questions asked.
On the one hand, I blame the media for this. I blame the news for portraying this boy like this, but I also blame the blind people who do not see the fabricated, racist picture that is being painted before them. I would’ve hoped that after all these incidences, after all the pain that our country has put black people through, more of us would take the time to understand the environment that our society has created.
But this is one thing I do agree with the people who are defending the officer. Yes, officer Loehman was doing his job. His job is to follow the racial profiling techniques that he has been taught by his police department and society. His job is to see a black boy as more of a threat than a white boy. And his job is to use deadly force against a boy that looks “suspicious” based on our society’s skewed and deluded perception of black folks. So yes, when you think about it, he was doing his job. He was doing exactly what his police training and his biased society has told him to do: to be afraid of black boys with gun, and see them as a larger threat than they are. And his job is to use deadly force against a boy that looks “suspicious” based on our society’s skewed and diluted perception of black folks. Because that is the way our society is constructed, and this systematic racism within the police force is just a small piece of the bigger monster.
The shot that killed Tamir Rice was heard across the entire nation, and people started asking questions, analyzing and calling out the Cleveland Police Department for this injustice as well as past injustices that black community of Cleveland has faced. Ultimately, this story blew up. It hit hard and was used as a symbol for all the oppression and injustice that is happening against black folks in our nation. This was one of the stories that viciously stripped America of it’s fake delusion that we’ve become a post-racial society, and almost flung the country in a state of civil war that was being fought through Twitter threads and street demonstrations. The Black Lives Matter movement grew many supporters as well as many critics. Either way, people were talking about it, and many were starting to listen. And people should be talking about it more. Especially in Cleveland, the city that has experienced a tremendous amount of corruption by the CPD and is a good example of an American city which is particularly struggling with racist police brutality.
I want to see more people caring, and more people understanding that this is still a case that needs to be highlighted. There needs to be more people on the streets, more people voicing their opinions and most importantly, learning the facts of the case that the media is keeping from us. I want to see more people not only in the streets but simply visible with their voices, whether on social media or through the news. We are the forgotten city, and this is exactly why racist and oppressive incidences like this get swept under the rug so easily. We are the city that everyone shrugs at, but we are not the only city bleeding from systematic racism. This is why we need to stand up more than ever before, and make sure this is not another crime that is defined as “reasonable” and “unfortunate” but rather, “unjust” and “infuriating”. We need numbers, we need passion, and we need people who are not afraid to say it how it is. We need to show the world that enough people care about this that there needs to be real change.
I’m proud to see that Tamir’s name is not being forgotten by many. The anger over his death will speak in volumes, but it will only louder if we have more people to stand in solidarity, and fight for the truth. This is our time. Our time for Cleveland to stand up and make a difference in our city by rising up and speaking out for this grand injustice in our society. It’s time for Cleveland to turn around and not let this boy’s name be forgotten. Tamir Rice has become a part of our city’s history, but we are not done writing it just yet.
This article appeared in the February issue of The Vindicator. The online version of the issue is here!