A Letter for Tamir Rice
When I first read of your assassination,
I was already spent on grief:
For Emmett, Amadou, Oscar, Eric, Trayvon, Renisha and Mike.
My well of mourning is running dry
I’m drawing on the coppers
At the bottom of the wishing well,
It’s hard but necessary to be reminded so frequently
That we this strange fruit will never be too far from the lynching tree.
You left your house that day, armed
With an arsenal of ambition,
Loaded with hope and
Ready to explode with potential
Like fireworks across the Cleveland skyline,
Commemorating the new year
You weren’t allowed to enter.
I remember what it was like to be a 12 year old Black boy,
It was hard enough to keep the mind clear,
Without being burdened with knowing
that from birth until death,
You will live your life
Inside the eye of a crosshair,
Potentially just 28 hours from death by Police
or death by racially motivated murder,
Constantly shrinking yourself to fit into inhospitable places,
Governed by people who think they are doing you a favour
By letting you breathe.
And it’s wrong,
You had to adjust to life in a world
Where the humanhood of Blacks must be asserted, daily.
This is not the peace of justice
Dr King and his generation marched in solidarity for.
And it’s unfair,
That the media will question your skill at living cautiously
rather than your right to live happily,
But will not probe why one of your murderers was a frontline officer
Despite being deemed unfit for Policing.
The mainstream media will partake
In the demonisation of your character,
You will be presented as the villain
Rather than the victim of a modern day lynching.
The inquest into your murder
will be nothing more than perfunctory.
A Grand Jury will decide
that your death certificate was not signed
When the 9-1-1 dispatcher asked the caller
whether you were Black or White,
Not once but twice.
They will not apportion accountability
For your killers giving you just 2 seconds to react
To their supposed calls of ‘put your hands up’,
Before shooting you twice in the gut,
And forcing you to spend four of your final,
conscious minutes in the presence of your murderers,
Deprived of your right to first aid,
Or the comfort of having your 14 year old sister by your side
As you bled into the afterlife.
I’m sorry that you never lived long enough to learn
That the difference between childhood mischief
And presumed juvenile criminality
Is not the difference between an authentic firearm and an air gun,
But the difference between Black skin and White skin.
Dear Tamir, I promise to write down and speak up
Until the world and in years to come,
The history books, speak of your name
And the countless others,
In the same breath