My Son Is Tamir Rice
By: Kacey Gill
I’m sitting here, staring at my laptop trying to motivate myself to write an article about the American male and the rape culture that surrounds us in this day and age. I know this is a topic that needs to be discussed, that needs to be addressed, but today, sitting here, I can’t bring myself to write that article. Today, sitting here, staring at this blank word documen , I find another topic weighing on my mind. It’s so heavy, that I can’t ignore it. The faces of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner are dancing behind my eyes. The protests in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland are tugging at my heart. I know I am not the only one who is plagued by the thoughts and images of the events of our country. I know we’ve all seen it on our television screens and our laptops. I know we’ve all heard it on the radio and in our classrooms. I also know that not everyone is going to share my contempt for murderous cops or my sympathy for dead black men and boys. I know this, and I know that I am undeniably and irrevocably biased in these cases. I am biased because of who I am. I am biased because of my experiences. I am biased because I have seen one too many black bodies lying dead in the street. Today, right now, I’m not going to lecture you about race. I’m not going to try to persuade you. I’m not going to criticize you if you believe the cop in the Tamir Rice case was justified. Today, right now, all I want is to share an experience that you may not see. I want to share my experience with you, as a black woman, living in this country. I want you to see this, to see me, and to understand a little more.
When I see Eric Garner lying dead on a New York sidewalk because he was selling bootleg cigarettes, I think of my father. I can see his body crumpled on the ground unmoving, no longer breathing. When I see Michael Brown, six bullets in his back, I see my future husband, the man I love more than anything else in the world. When I see Tamir Rice, I see my future children, who will inevitable carry a pigment in their skin that will characterize them as black from the day they’re born. When I see these people, these black men, they are no longer strangers but the people I hold nearest and dearest to my heart.
There’s an irrefutable pattern of murder of black males – of brothers, uncles, fathers, sons, grandfathers, husbands, cousins, and friends. It doesn’t matter how light or how dark he is. It doesn’t matter how old or how young he is. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor he is. The proof of how easy it is to murder a black man and get away with it is in the long lists of obituaries.
This fact, the fact that this behavior has become no less than a trend nationally, is something that causes me indescribable pain. Sitting in my history class, looking at images of Eric Garner’s wife, I couldn’t help but feel the dread that one day I would be her. That one day, I would have to bury my murdered husband, and then try to explain to my kids why their father’s murderer was walking free. I worry even now, at my young age of sixteen, that my life will end up resembling that of Esaw Garner’s. Every time my boyfriend steps out of his house I am struck with fear. He’s a nineteen year old black male – he’s no different than any one of the already lost. I turn over their names in my head – Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis. And then… and then I can’t help but add his name to the end of the list. Just another name, on a list much too long.
I think about what it will be like when I have sons, when I have little brown boys running around my house. I think about the conversations that I’ll have to have with them. I’ll tell them to not walk around with a large group of black boys – that people always think that’s trouble. I’ll tell them not to loiter around in stores, because people will think that they’re stealing something. I’ll tell them to always keep their hands on the steering wheel when they get pulled over, because I’ve seen too many cases of black people getting shot for moving their hands and seemingly “going for a weapon”. I’ll tell them to never resist a cop, to do exactly what they say, the first time they say it. I’ll look my sons in the eyes, and tell them that even if they do that, even if the keep their hands raised and get on their knees, it may not save them; it didn’t save the unarmed Orlando Barlow, who was surrendering on his knees in front of four Las Vegas cops, only to get shot and killed. I’ll hold my children close and pray because I know no matter what I tell them, it’s not a guarantee that they won’t end up as another homicide case.
My everyday reality is watching the most important people crumble because of what they are seeing happen. I held one of my closest friends while she cried and cried and cried and kept asking, “Why is it okay? Why do people think it’s okay?” I didn’t have an answer for her, all I could do was hold her, and let her cry. I sat with one of my greatest mentors and looked her in the eyes as she broke down and admitted that the world wasn’t safe for us black youth, and that no matter how hard she tried, she doubted it ever would be. I listened to my own mother say how lucky she was to have had a girl and not a boy – because having a black son in 2014 is one of the scariest things she could possibly imagine.
As a society, we’ve made these cases a battle between two sides. We’ve divided ourselves by race, by class, by past experiences and memories. It’s become one great debate about whether or not these deaths, or murders, were justified. Whether it was cops who pulled the trigger, or self-empowered individual like George Zimmerman or Michael Dunn (murderer of Jordan Davis), the debate is the same.
There are always going to be debates, but it doesn’t change one simple fact – in the end there was a dead black boy, or a dead black man. No one’s opinion, right or wrong, no court ruling, right or wrong, will change this fact. This fact is my reality. This fact has become my expectation. This fact has become the bane of my existence. It’s my worst nightmare just lurking around the corner. This fact has become part of who I am. This fact will change who I will become. I wish and wish and wish that it won’t. But it will. This is my life. This is me.