Cleveland

(7/18) I have never read anything online that has made me physically ill until tonight. I was  scrolling masochistically through comments regarding an interview of a woman who lost a son to a cop shooting. The comments were filled with the usual rants and inaccuracies, but then I came on something really horrifying.

There  wasn’t swearing, there were no gross pictures or obscene memes. There was just the quick, angry comment of one woman who lambasted the shooting victim of the story for being so stupid as to have a BB gun he made look “real”  —He caused his own death she declared.

The victim was Tamir Rice .

He was 12 years old.

This woman was blaming a 12 yr old for his own death by a cop.

My stomach flipped.  Blame the mother, blame the “culture,”  blame all the things you always blame when someone shoots and kills someone they shouldn’t have and you don’t want to think about the “why.”

But don’t you dare blame that boy.

 

In 1954, journalist Edward R. Murrow warned us against confusing “dissent with disloyalty.”

Murrow was  talking about not giving-in to the extra-constitutional McCarthy era witch hunts (the revisionist justification of which is currently en vogue in some corners.)

Today we face a dissimilar issue but need a similar reminder.

In this country right now, there is a zero tolerance policy in one major political party for anyone criticizing the police in any way.

This is problematic and confusing.  Anti-misconduct and pro-cop are compatible ideas. Or as commentator John Fuglesang put it:

I’m on the side of everyone who’s against both police brutality & brutality against police. It’s not a complicated position.

It really isn’t.

I’ve heard politicians, talking heads, academics and others who are worried about police brutality say over and over things like  “We don’t say all cops are bad. We know you put your lives on the line for us and have an impossible job. We respect you.”  Obama says it.  Clinton. John Lewis says it. I can’t think of anyone of note who doesn’t say it.

BUT, that doesn’t seem be enough.

If that comment is not followed up with total denial that America has any kind of police brutality issue,  let alone general racism issues — then the person speaking is crucified by — I don’t know even how to categorize the people who say this? Conservative white people?

I can link you to five times when Pres. Obama, for example, goes on at length about  law enforcement,  safeguarding them, appreciating then, calling for unity and healing. But if he also  happens to say sometimes the police are wrong and Black people have legit concerns, he’s called  racist  – or worse – and told he’s dividing the nation.

In 2016, The President of The United States  is unable to see a problem and address it, if that problems points out to problematic policing or racial bias.

If he violates this rule, he is said to be a “racist” declaring “war” with “real Americans”. He is called  “responsible for cop deaths.”

This is the logic of a child having  tantrum

Why is it so hard to encounter a Black person who is angry without assuming the anger is unjustified ?  If you felt your life or your kid’s life was threatened, wouldn’t you be angry? 

Why must Black Lives Matter inspire charges of “reverse racism”  instead of a reaching-out process wherein white people say to Black activists:  “I don’t understand, but I trust you’re a decent, sane, honest person, so tell me your story?”

There are literally tens of thousands of anti-misconduct activists, all with their own motivations, lives and groupings and most of us don’t know any of them.

Why do so many people assume they aren’t decent, sane or honest?

And why do so many people not care about their stories?

[“But the cop killers of the last week said stuff about Black Lives Matters.”  Yeah. They were  both military vets, too. So embrace guilt by association or don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Your choice.]

Our society has created an environment where overt and implicit bias lead to unequal treatment under the law. We have created an environment  where the voracity and frequency of  violence and crime are exacerbated by the omini-presence of guns and the civilian embrace of  violence as a tough guy cure-all.

Cops didn’t cause this problem nor should they be blamed for its causes. The blame is much larger than that.

We have created this environment and we have tolerated it for generations and some of us have benefitted from it.

And now we are, a lot of us, refusing to deal with the byproducts of this environment: fear, mistrust and, most especially, death.

And we are blaming them instead on 12 year old boys with BB guns.

We cannot solve a problem we will not face.  And we are not facing this.

We cannot solve a problem we won’t admit to.  And we are not admitting to this

One of our nation’s major political parties just paraded a whole lot of people on the national stage tonight and said to any Americans who have been hurt by police brutality:

“No you haven’t.”

They said to any Americans who dare to say anything about race

“You are racists trying to divide our country”.

They said to any Americans concerned about their loved ones being killed in dealings with the police:

“You are the true killers.”

And the only ones more dangerous than those who actually believe all this  are the ones who don’t and who slickly and professionally  promote this rank demagoguery  in order to gain political advantage…and then say Obama is dividing the nation when he dares to say life’s not grand.

***

Three independent investigations of Tamir Rice’s death said the shooting was tragic but justified. Two others said it was tragic –and due to police mishandling of the incident. 

Some  blame faulty communication, weak training, implicit bias, or bad hiring. Go ahead.

Some blame the adults for not supervising, the neighbors for over-reacting, the city for being too violent and putting police on edge. Go ahead.

A 12 year old stupidly playing with a gun that looked real gets shot in the torso and dies. Brought it on himself.

…Don’t you dare blame that boy.

***

Last year, 1o times as many unarmed Black men between 15-34 were killed by police as were police killed by Black men. Ten times. All tragic – cops or civilians.

If all lives matter, why isn’t this 170 an issue for us all?   

1/….Because a lot of people  don’t really care about these victims lives. Not victims in  corn-rows and bandanas wearing  wife-beater shirts, gold teeth,  low sagging pants; not victims rolling blunts in the car, gang banging,  unemployed  drop out or ex-cons selling random crap on the sidewalk. What kind of work is that? You know he did something. You know how they are…

2/….Because a lot of people don’t care about the victims’ families,   Not moms who are fat with wear purple weaves, loud and angry, probably on Welfare;  not fathers and mothers who aren’t married;  not these girlfriends whose name ends in “-eisha” or “-quondra”; not that family spokesperson wearing that  t-shirt with the dead man’s face printed on it, plus that big pin. The dead man probably wasn’t even that close with his family. You know how they are…

3/….Because they don’t live in a world where they have to consider disturbing thoughts    The idea that cops do things wrong – really wrong? The idea people they find unsavory might be innocent victims? These things disturb the way of many people’s world. And when they are asked to confront these disturbances, they do one of three things:

  • Get defensive and see the messenger as the  lying, divisive enemy who must be destroyed.
  • Get defensive, then chill,  and try to do better.
  • Get defensive and then just forget about it. Because they can

If we don’t face the problem, we can’t fix the problem.

***

Tamir Rice was from Cleveland. Why didn’t this party that wants unity invite his mother to speak alongside the mother of the man who died in Benghazi?  To talk about her pain and her loss, to talk about how she feels lied to, about how she feels the system let her down? 

Because this mom she doesn’t think police are perfect. Because she doesn’t think the system treats everyone equally. 

Because a good part of the evening was about standing up as a party and saying to the country the things this woman experienced, feels, contends with- her dead son –  none of it is real.

None of it matters.

Cops are color-blind heroes, all of them, all of the time.  There is no racial problem in America, no policing issues to solve. To say  anything else makes you  a divider, a traitor, and a killer of policemen.  

“What happened to ONE America?”  a speaker asks-  with no trace of irony – after a night spent calling dissent murderous disloyalty.

In short, the mother of this 12 year old Cleveland child who died because he had a toy gun and came across the wrong set of police, wasn’t asked to speak at the convention because she challenged their fake, insidious narrative that all is right in the world –except for those ghetto thugs who had it coming and those irrational , hateful racist activists who don’t just accept that fact and move on.

Tamir Rice’s mom wasn’t invited because she didn’t blame the boy.

 

 

(Photo: Jimmie Lee Jackson. Google it.)

 

 

 

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