There it was again: grand jury decided not to indict. No surprise. This time I’d held out some hope. Although, I’m not sure why. No, I do know why. It’s because Tamir Rice was a child. A young boy playing outside like we all hope children can do without fear, especially fear of death at the hands of a supposed protector. These are a snippet of the thoughts running through my mind while I read the Mother Jones article: “A Grand Jury Just Decided Not to Indict the Cop Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice.” As I read the piece, hoping to find something in between the lines that could sooth my soul and help me understand why this just…keeps…happening, I saw a reminder of the reason in a word: “teenager.” I could see it as a typo; it states his age right there in the subject line. I could see it that way, but I know that the word is more than that. I know the impact its presence has and the many reasons why the mistake may have been made. Black youth aren’t children; they’re men and women, men and women to be feared and tamed. Tamir was not a teenager. He was a child who never made it to teenage years and would never get to meander through those awkward adolescent years and blossom into the type of person he might have dreamed of being. Our world lost the opportunity to know what he had to give us. My insides were already on fire, so I wrote a note to the author in hopes of saving some part of this child from the oppressive gaze put on him on me on all of ‘us.’ I wrote a short email to the author:
Thank you for your thorough article and coverage of this situation. I want to point out that in the second paragraph, you refer to Tamir Rice as a teenager, but he was in fact, only a 12 year old child. This is a small and easily understood error by any reader, but this aging up of Tamir Rice goes to reinforce the perception of Black youth as less childlike as perceived by the police, society and portrayed by the media, which results in implicit bias and impulse based reactions like the one covered in this story. I am sure that is was a mere oversight, but feel that it is important to raise. It would be greatly appreciated if you could remove that reference. The report from the APA below serves to further explain why this is an issue: AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: Black Boys Viewed as Older, Less Innocent Than Whites, Research Finds Police likelier to use force against black children when officers ‘dehumanize’ blacks, study says
The author wrote back to me quickly owning the mistake and letting me know that it would be changed. And it was. No push back no excuses, just change. What a refreshing interaction. This didn’t save a life or change the course of event, but it made a small difference to me and I hope to someone else.