Remembering Tamir Rice: Why the World Will Not Love My Son
Mood: Mother, Mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, Brother, there’s too many of you dying -What’s Going On? Marvin Gaye
While doing some research for this blog, I ran across a photo of Tamir Rice.
Rice was a twelve-year-old Cleveland, Ohio resident who was shot and killed in a local park on November 23, 2014.
The child was gunned down by a white police officer who assumed the toy gun Rice was playing with was an actual firearm.
While looking at the photo of Rice, and thinking about how adorable he was, I inadvertently pressed the screen of my tablet. Almost instantaneously, a picture of me from my photo gallery popped up beside the photo of Tamir. I was shocked.
The resemblance between Tamir and myself is uncanny. We have similar complexions, the same chubby cheeks, high cheekbone structure, and a super dark eye and eyelash combination that is quite unusual.
I immediately searched Google for more photos of Tamir to compare with photos of myself.
He seemed to have had a silly disposition. He was always smiling brightly or striking funny poses, as I often did as a child. His friends and family reported that he loved basketball and loved to draw. Though I am not athletic, I love to draw as well.
I felt sick when I realized this beautiful child could be my own son. No, back in 2014 it would have not been possible that I could have been a mother to a twelve-year-old child. However, it is very possible that one day I could give birth to a son who may look a lot like Tamir Rice.
This sweet, beautiful boy who was gunned down needlessly.
The Tamir of my Mind
Though I never knew Tamir Rice personally, all these imagined memories came rushing into my head:
A beautiful brown baby in my arms, a wobbly toddler by my side, a cute little boy with a gorgeous smile, and then my pre-teen. My pre-teen who keeps me on my toes as he becomes a young man.
He’s got crushes, more homework than we can keep up with, and hoop dreams. He’s embarrassed when I hug him in front of his friends, but every night before bed he calls me into his room and we talk until he falls asleep.
He’s growing up so fast! However, he’s still my baby and I love him dearly. Love leads me to worry. I want the best for him. I want to keep him safe forever, but I must slowly learn to let go.
He loves playing basketball with his friends in the park not far from our home. I wish he’d just play in our backyard where he is safe, but I understand my trust gives him the confidence he needs to take on this world responsibly.
Soon he will be heading off to college and he needs to learn autonomy.
On most days he walks to the park with his friends, but today it is snowy and he doesn’t mind bombing a ride off Mom.
He hops into the passenger side of my car and I marvel. Just yesterday it seems I was gently placing him into his car seat, worried that even hitting a speed bump would hurt him. How rapidly does time pass!
I turn up the heat and the warm torrents along with the lull of the engine relaxes us. As I drive, he yawns. He shouldn’t have stayed up so late playing video games. I turn on my Sam Smith album and he sighs, “Mom, eww! Can we listen to something else?” He asks in mock disgust.
I lift one hand from the steering wheel in silent surrender. He starts fumbling with the radio and soon the bass is bumping and he’s rapping along to a song, “Got the club going up, on a Tuesday. Got your girl in the cut and she’s choosey.”
“TAMIR!” I shout appalled. He erupts in jovial laughter at my rage. “Ok,” he finally mumbles as he flips the stereo again.
Sam Smith is back on and this time Tamir is singing along, “Stay with meee,” he croons in a comical Smith impression. This time I laugh and before long we are both cracking up as I stop the car in front of the park.
I am reluctant to stop. Every instinct in me urges that I drive my child home, but I repress the desire. I notice that Tamir is not in a rush to leave my side either. I turn to him and place my hand under his chin, his skin is still baby soft.
“Tamir, I love you. Watch yourself, ok? I know you’re a big boy, but the world isn’t as kind as you think. Call me if you need me. If anything strange happens, I mean anything, you run home ok?”
He looks so innocent with those dark brown eyes so much like mine. He slowly nods in agreement.
He surprises me by initiating our parting hug, but in no time, he releases me and dashes out of the door to meet up with his friends.
I see a police car patrolling the area. He will be safe with law enforcement present, I reason; however, I never see my son alive again.
Sure, this did not happen. Tamir is not my child, but this case is so close to home. The fact of the matter is, my future children will be black and potentially male.
No matter the father, no matter the circumstance, my contribution to my future children’s DNA will be principally black and the world will not love my son.
The world did not love Tamir. He was not seen as a little boy with a toy gun, playing in the park. The police did not try to talk him down or ask to see his alleged weapon. They gunned him down within literally three seconds of their arrival on the scene. Because of the color of this child’s skin, he was viewed as a criminal, a gangster, and a thug.
Because of the color of this child’s skin, he lay dying in the snow while his fourteen-year-old sister, who came to the park with him, was tackled to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested by white officers.
I mourn not only for Tamir, but every black child in America.
The kinks and curls of their hair, the brown of their skin, all the physical attributes that make them beautiful are the things considered a threat to white America.
My hope is that one day little black boys like Tamir can play in the park and come home safely.
My hope is that black young men and be stopped by police for license and registration without being shot in front of their girlfriend- Philando Castile.
My plea is that black boys can roam around their grandmothers’ home with a cellphone in hand and not be shot multiple time –Stephon Clark.
My prayer is that black boys can walk to the store and buy Skittles and sweet tea, without arriving home in a body bag- Trayvon Martin.
My hope is that as a nation we change.
Brown skin does not create criminals. No individual who wakes up in the morning with dreams deserves to be laid to rest.
I hope that if I ever welcome a child into this world, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. he or she will not be judged by the color or their skin, but rather the content of their character.