Bill of Sale
Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio, gallivanting in a park, as children are wont to do. He was playing with a toy gun. In America, it’s customary to sell replicas of lethal weapons to children for recreation. Violence is the way of life here. It’s the favorite pastime and chief export. It’s the thing that distinguishes our art, culture, and language from any other in the world. So it’s not unusual that Tamir had a toy gun and was playing with it in a playground. The problem was, however, that Tamir was black. And even a wallet in the hands of a black person scares white people. Shit, even sleeping black people terrify white people.
But I digress.
Tamir was frolicking, playing an imaginary game of cops and robbers or something, blissfully unaware.
That’s when a Concerned Neighbor saw him.
Usually a white or white-identified person, the Concerned Neighbor is someone who is always afraid — but more honestly, is always hoping — that something bad is going to happen. They usually feel this fear/hope when they see a person of color in their vicinity. For them, the presence of a person of color signals danger.
They are always peeking through their windows from behind curtains and are always minding someone else’s business. They are always alarmed. They are bad at context. They are unable or unwilling to recognize the very people of color who have lived in their communities — and, sometimes, right next door to them — for ages. They hurry past people of color in the street and may cross it if they see people of color coming. They avoid elevators with people of color in them. They grasp their purses in the presence of people of color. They lack cultural competency (mostly because they lack culture). They can only regard themselves as innocent (see: Special Snowflake Syndrome). They hate mirrors. They worship 9/11. Their God is their Errors Magnified. And they make horrific witnesses.
None of that, however, interferes with their arrogance, ignorance, or sense of entitlement. They keep 911 on speed dial. And with haughty, irritated, and insolent tones (recall the scene in The Color Purple where Miss Millie says to Miss Sofia, “I don’t know her, either!” and you’ve got the exact attitude and tenor of the classic Concerned Neighbor voice), they call the police on people of color doing regular things in places the Concerned Neighbors don’t think people of color belong.
Usually, the actions initiated by the Concerned Neighbor end in tragedy for the person of color because the Concerned Neighbor has yet to learn that police officers treat people of color differently than they treat white people. Concerned Neighbors fail to realize that police officers are more likely to respond with fatal actions in even benign situations involving people of color than they are in the exact same situations with white people. Or maybe they do realize it and this is their way of hiring hitmen to kill people of color free of charge.
In any case, people of color should beware Concerned Neighbors for they are lethal and unchecked.
So the Concerned Neighbor called 911 and told the dispatcher that a black juvenile was pointing what was probably a fake pistol at random people in the park. The dispatcher, however, only heard the words “black” and “pistol” (asked, in fact, several times, if the juvenile was black or white) and never relayed any other information to the police.
The police arrived on the scene and shot and killed Tamir immediately, on the spot. The officers mistook Tamir for an adult. Apparently, white people can’t/don’t/won’t see black children as innocent or as children. This is not how police regard white children in identical circumstances. The police lied through their teeth on their report though — as is standard operating procedure for police officers — and said that Tamir refused to obey their commands to show his hands. A subsequently released video of the assassination, as well as eyewitness statements, revealed the police officers’ testimony as Utter. Bullshit.
Further investigation revealed that in addition to being Tamir’s murderer, the officer who shot Tamir was a completely incompetent fool who should have never been given a job, much less a weapon.
Despite all of this, the City of Cleveland ruled that the officers acted reasonably and no charges would be filed against them. This was the city’s white supremacist dog-whistle/code language for “[Negroes] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.”
Tamir’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the officers involved and against the city. It was just settled for $6 million on the condition that the city admitted to no wrongdoing. After all, all they had done was kill what, to them, was never alive to start.
I’m assuming they will be paying Tamir’s estate in cash, maybe even in all Harriet Tubmans. I expected them, out of characteristic sadism and spite, to pay in cotton. What do the police or the city care, anyway? The debt will be paid with taxpayer dollars instead of the pension funds/salaries of the mayor, city council, and police department as would be just.
In 1853, about $1250 would have been paid to Tamir’s Massa if some wayward overseer murdered him.
In 2016, $6 million (before taxes and before the attorneys take their cut) is being paid to the aggrieved for the continued wayward actions of overseers.
This is the American idea(l) of progress.