Emmett Till & Tamir Rice: Two innocent black kids murdered 59 years apart.
I just read a powerful op-ed piece by Charles Blow -- "Tamir Rice and the Value of Life" -- from last January's New York Times. This post is an expansion of the response I published to Facebook:
My younger son turns 12 in two days. Tamir Rice could have been him ... except, of course, that he's white. Actually, he is biracial but he takes after his Irish birth mother so completely that, as he used to say, his "brown skin is on the inside." To look at him is to see a wee lad from the Emerald Isle. But he belies the notion of clear and strict racial categories, like his older brother who's brown skin is "on the outside" (for him it's his white skin "on the inside"). White ... Black ... those divisions don't hold up too well in a world as multi-hued as ours. And yet ... And yet it took a police officer less than 2 seconds to decide that this brown-skinned boy was enough of a threat that he felt justified in shooting him, and perhaps even worse, he felt justified in rendering him no aid as if this little boy was disposable. And why? Because he was Black, and we have been conditioned as a society to see Black men as more dangerous than White men. Study after study after study demonstrates the reality of implicit bias -- the unconscious attitudes that, "affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner." You do not have to be consciously racist to have these unconscious attitudes shape your behavior. As they most certainly did in the minds of Officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback on that November afternoon.
Do you want to know why people are shouting "Black Lives Matter" rather than the more universal "All Lives Matter"?
If Tamir had been white, the uproar of outrage at the shooting, the callous treatment, and, now, the lack of indictment of the officers involved would be deafening. But it's not. And it's not because those who are shouting the loudest are as easy for white America to dismiss as was the life of this little boy. It is so easy for us -- white Americans -- to nestle down all snug in those safe places we create for ourselves -- those sanctuaries, both literal and metaphorical -- in which we can cocoon ourselves and listen only to our own reality.
We -- again, White Americans -- must make ourselves uncomfortable, disturbed, or, in Dr. Kings memorable word, maladjusted. We must refuse to let ourselves be lulled into a safe and contented sleep that is, by its very nature, both a symptom and a cause of the problem. We White Americans can turn off the ugliness of racism. We have the freedom to set it aside, to insist on our "right" to a little peace and quiet. This is a luxury and a privilege not, as we so often describe it, and entitlement.
To my White friends ... what can we do ... what can you do ... to keep yourself uncomfortable? What can you do to keep the cancer of systemic racism in your face all the time? These are not rhetorical questions, they are a real call to action. A call for you, whoever you are reading this, to do something to make this struggle as real for you, as important for you, as necessary for you as it is for the family of Tamir Rice ... and the families of all those whose lives are very much uncomfortable, and unsafe, each and every day.