Being a comedian makes it much easier to write about a lot of “serious” topics. Other times, it doesn’t do me any good. This is one of those times.
The family of Tamir Rice — the 14-year-old young boy who was shot dead by police just moments after they encountered him wielding only a pellet gun — was just awarded $6 million in a settlement of their case against the City of Cleveland in federal court. I am sure without even looking that certain elements of our society — elements that are always there to remind us that victims of police brutality aren’t really victims because I guess “Who needs Due Process” — will cluck and shake their heads. To people like them, the police officers of this great country shouldn’t be held to a higher standard, but instead should be given carte blanche to do pretty much whatever the fuck they want to because their jobs are hard and dangerous.
Those people are idiots.
I have two sons. Neither are as old as Tamir was, but I don’t think it matters what age you lose your child — 14, 17, 27, 37, and so on. The connection one feels to their offspring in most cases is so strong that many of us just simply don’t and won’t acknowledge our children’s mortality in the first place. But to lose your flesh and blood to senseless violence at the hands of people who are literally sworn to protect and serve us seems like a hellish nightmare you will never, ever wake up from.
To me, $6 million seems light. I can’t and won’t put a price tag on either my boys’ lives, but I don’t think there’s a financial sum hefty enough to ever replace the emptiness and coldness that would take over in my being, were one of them to be killed. To think of it happening because a cop killed them, when they weren’t breaking any laws or posing any threat to anyone is literally impossible for me to do. And yet, young Tamir’s family has had to deal with that pain and loss since 2014, and sadly they aren’t the only family who’s had to bury young loved ones who were victims of a blatant abuse of deadly force.
Let’s also be real — there’s very little reason for me to even worry about my white sons having this happen to them. If I were a parent of a child who had dark skin, I’m not even sure how I would broach the subject with them.
“Now, kids, remember, the man withe badge and the gun is sworn to protect everyone, just not us when it really counts.”
Cleveland owes Tamir Rice’s family — and the world — so much more than $6 million. They owe the family a child. That’s a loss that will never get repaid. They owe the world a real explanation, which can only be done in a court of law, in an open trial, where all the evidence is entered into consideration. And there we have another way in which Cleveland can never pay its debts.
Because the officers involved with the shooting were cleared of any charges, there can never be a trial. I sometimes think that Americans are so far removed from their own revolution that they’ve forgotten how important trials are. They can help quell tensions when they’re held in a fair an open manner. They can help answer questions, and even if they cannot bring acceptance or even closure, they are the best tools we have to at least try and provide comfort to the families of victims.
But in Cleveland, the officer who killed Tamir wasn’t tried. Any evidence we saw presented was done so through the lens of the media, and as such was subject to spin every which way from Sunday. He might not have testified, but it would have at least given Tamir’s family another chance to hear from the cop himself what made him decide to take that young boy’s life. It’s not that it would have made things better, but it would have been better than what actually happened, namely jack shit.
So do me a favor, if you happen to be trawling around Facebook and come upon someone questioning the $6 million Tamir Rice’s family got, give them hell for me. Tell them there is no price tag for someone’s life, and there is no amount of money that can ever heal the emotional wounds that the Cleveland PD opened up by failing Tamir and his family from the moment that cop fired on him. Remind them maybe if they’d done the right thing and put the cop on trial, maybe there wouldn’t have been a cash payout…of course, there might have been a jail sentence for the cop instead, so that might not calm down the slack-jawed mouth breathers complaining about this settlement anyway.
What Cleveland owes Tamir’s family and indeed the rest of the world is respect. Not even the $6 million represents that. It just represents a sly, under the breath admission that the fucked-up. But that was after they told Tamir’s family that unlike most other victims of crime, Tamir didn’t deserve to see his killer prosecuted in court. It was after they made it seem in the press like Rice was a victim of unfortunate circumstances, not completely preventable negligence caused by a deadly cocktail of shitty policy training, shitty police officers, and shitty citizens giving shitty cops license to be shitty.
$6 million is a drop in the goddamned bucket when juxtaposed to what should have happened — namely that Tamir Rice not be shot for being black in possession of a pellet gun.