Last week marked the six anniversary of when Tamir Rice was murdered by police in Ohio for playing with a toy gun. Tamir was only 12 years old. 12. Many of us may remember 12 as a magical time of wonder and surprise. A time in which we dreamed, discovered, and began to come into our own. In mythology, the number 12 is symbolic, representative of perfection — the demarcation line between childhood and adolescence. The final age of innocence. A kind of innocence that Tamir Rice and so many other young Black boys are never granted.
I often think about what the national discourse would be like present day on race, police brutality, and racism had this tragic event not been brushed off as an isolated event or anomaly, as opposed to a part of a larger systemic crisis deserving of the nation’s attention and care.
The world just carried on as business as usual in 2014, while the hashtags of the names of innocent victims of racial violence continued to mound. Insert the summer of 2020, and despite the call to action for racial justice and an end to systemic racism, just recently we learned that Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17 year old white male was able to post bond, secure a brand sponsorship and be celebrated by politicians as a national hero for killing two people and injuring a third with an assault rifle at protest rally in Wisconsin. Tamir Rice was playing by himself with a toy gun but was considered a threat. Kyle Rittenhouse had a real gun, using it to kill people but he was never considered a threat. This contrasting reality is at the foundation of how justice is carried within society. The juxtaposition of two races, two structures, two outcomes, and two experiences that have implications of life or death.
When people say that our country does not abide by two systems of justice, or that systemic racism isn’t real, present this narrative history as an example, out of a plethora to choose from.
Power + Privilege = Racism (P+P=R).
We are never going to be able to combat the pervasive issue of racial injustice until we can engage in an honest dialogue about how the protection of white supremacy hurts all of us, regardless of our racialized identity.
Tamir Rice was 12. Six years has passed since his murder. I continue to ruminate on if our conversations are any different than they were six years ago or is it more of the same business as usual?
Ralinda Watts, a native of Los Angeles, is a diversity expert,consultant, creative and writer who works at the intersection of culture, identity, race, and justice, sparking thoughtful conversations on what matters most; authenticity! Her podcast, @Ralinda Speaks is available on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Let’s be in conversation, connect with me on IG & Twitter @Ralinda Watts