Sadly, it has taken over a year for a grand jury to decide what most of us could have pretty much predicted in the Tamir Rice case: officer Timothy Loehmann will not face indictment for fatally shooting him last November. And according to Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty, his actions, although devastating, were ultimately “reasonable” given that any alternative (i.e. not shooting to kill) would have “(allowed) the theoretical, sanitized world of our imagination to replace the dangerous and complex world that policemen face every day.” These words, extracted from the Sixth Circuit Case, Smith vs. Freeland, by hired expert Kimberly Crawford, perpetuate a rhetoric that deems it quite appropriate for law enforcement to blindly implement deadly force on people of color.
In this way, we come to conceptualize the legal “reasonableness” of Tamir Rice’s death as an acceptable tragedy in the violent, unrestrained practice of murdering black life; and actually, understand it to be necessary. In the jury’s vote not to indict, we see accomplished this Monday what has been the standard since the inception of this nation.
Blatant in Crawford’s citation is that it is only logical to not consider anything except for Rice’s capacity (and desire) to kill—something that is solely understood and determined in terms of his race. This cannot be ignored. The particular ideologies hosting this logic refuse to differentiate Rice as anything other than a criminal. In short, race successfully villainizes Rice’s age, circumstance, and gender, making them “irrelevant.”
Ironically, the most jarring attempt to deviate our gaze from race comes from McGinty’s hand at empathy, lamenting that “… the victim could have been my own son or grandson.” Such words are empty and disturbingly insensitive, as McGinty would never have a son or grandson murdered on account of his whiteness.
Perhaps it is true that Loehmann feared for his life upon approaching an “armed black male,” as he was told. Perhaps such fear still engulfed him as he looked upon Rice bleeding on the ground, who in his helplessness, was still seen as an immediate threat. And maybe this fear was so great that the officers had no interest or concern in investigating the conditions of why they were even called.
This fear, forever rationalized in the American psyche, does not distinguish between hindering/detaining and killing when it comes to people of color. It does not try to solve, it strives to end…and immediately.