Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Two Seconds

In two seconds, a photon of light travels over 372,000 miles.

In two seconds, a heart at its resting rate will have beat 2-3 times.

In two seconds, the worlds fastest computer performs 67,720 trillion calculations.

In two seconds, an innocent Black boy died.

His name was Tamir Rice. He was all of twelve-years-old. He lived in Cleveland and was out playing in a park with his sister and friends on a cool November day in 2014, carrying around a fake pistol, in the way most kids do. Or did.

Growing up, I can remember boys playing "War" or "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians" - back before we knew better - running around yards, and parks, and neighborhoods, brandishing toy pistols or rifles, or even long tree branches, playing with reckless abandon.

Tamir was no doubt doing something similar. He was young, he was having fun... and then he was dead.

Someone called 9-1-1. They reported someone running around with a gun. They made offhand remarks that it might be a fake gun. That it might be a kid. So weak were these remarks, the police dispatcher saw no need to mention them in the radio call to officers.

What happened next is on video for all the world to see. You can look it up yourself, measure the time from the moment police arrived at the park to the time of Tamir's death.

Two seconds.

Many things happen quickly in the span of two seconds, if you're a ray of light, or a computer, or even a heart. What shouldn't happen in the span of two seconds is the death of an innocent child at the hands of a person sworn to protect him and all the all other citizens of Cleveland. Two seconds is not enough time to size up a situation. Two seconds is not enough time to make the crucial decision about what action to take. Two seconds is not enough time to prepare for what may come.

It is enough time to kill an innocent boy if you have it in your mind to do it.

The officer rolled up on the scene, threw open his door, and fired, all in a span of two seconds. No thought, no analysis, no attempt to warn the subject of his machinations to drop the weapon. Car, door, shots, death.

The only way it took so little time for these actions to be accomplished was if there had been forethought about them. The officer took the report of a person possibly brandishing a weapon - from which no shots had been fired - and used that as the fuel to play "hero" in his head. He would stop this shooter before anyone could be harmed. He would save lives.

Instead, he took one.




Tamir's sister was there. Distraught over his death, the police manhandled her rather than trying to identify why she was distressed. They did not perform even rudimentary first aid on Tamir. If there had been a chance to save him, they did not take it. There he lay, and died.

And now, as if the insult and injury of the senseless murder of a child was not enough, the officers involved will face no charges. Not even for their reckless behavior or failure to render aid. No charges. Because a system, built of interlocking parts that cover each others' backs, will not condemn its own. The police, the District Attorneys, the Judges, they are woven together into a system that grants White people absolution for their crimes and anyone else "justice" in the form of a callous disregard for their life.

A White man shoots up a movie theater, or a Planned Parenthood clinic, or a Black Baptist church, and they walk away, weapons surrendered, shackled, off to meet a justice system that is more than willing to play host to the idea they simply "weren't in their right mind." That same system takes a Black boy with a toy gun, a grown man with an unpurchased rifle in a store, a man trying to bring peace to his neighborhood, a woman pulled over for not signaling, and condemns them to quick or slow death, but death all the same.

If Black people are angry, if they are upset, if they rage at the system, it is because they are allowed. They watch daily as their kind are subject to the depredations of "justice," which so often result in the death of innocents and a lack of contrition by, or accountability for, those who dole out senseless death.

There is no reforming this system. It is diseased, so shot through with privilege and hypocrisy as to be worthless to any but the richest, Whitest citizens. It is a system built on the backs of slaves, powered by tax money of the poor and middle class, and twisted by those with power and wealth to suit their ends. It is filled with people who crave power, who see victory in court as a check-mark in the "win" column, and a handful of believers in true justice overwhelmed by a caseload they cannot keep up with, leading them to short-change defendants by encouraging them to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit, in the name of expediency.

When a system exists that allows the murder of a twelve-year-old boy in a park by law enforcement to go unchallenged, it is time for that system to be torn down.