I met Samaria Rice recently at a Howard University Divinity School seminar on police terror where she spoke courageously about the day that changed her life forever. Her son, Tamir Rice was brutally killed by Cleveland, Ohio police at 3:30 pm on November 22, 2014. Tamir was only 12 years old when he was assailed, attacked and killed by police incapable of viewing him as a child playing in a neighborhood community center. Tamir’s assassination illustrates the depravity and abomination of white supremacy that compels us to explore the anatomy of genocide.
Undeniably, the perpetration of genocide against Black people is well in progress as state-sponsored policy superbly executed by law enforcement and vigilantes in every state, every county, and in every community. It’s not hard to diagnose: Michael Brown murdered because he was walking the in the middle of the road; Trayvon Martin murdered when returning home from a trip to the corner store; Walter Scott murdered while test driving a used car; Vonderitt Myers murdered after enjoying a turkey sandwich; John Crawford, III murdered while shopping at Walmart; Freddie Grey, hunted down and murdered because he exchanged eye contact with police, 12-year-old Tamir Rice murdered playing with a toy in a community center across the street from his house. The only commonality between these individuals was that they were living while Black. In addition, a carnivorous prison industrial complex and justice department bloated with nearly 1 million bodies that has meticulously impaled black men, boys and black families.
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Under the system of genocide, no place in America provides a sanctuary. Targets of this genocide know that their lives are subject to extermination at any time and in any place. Mothers sit up at night praying that they will not receive the phone call providing instructions to a morgue. These killings, physical intimidation, mass incarceration signify the occupier’s terror campaign against Black people locking them into persistent and escalating trauma. A space where one knows that one’s personal safety is tenuous, that one is not safe at home, at work, shopping, walking, running or playing. Despite the unknowns and the unknowables, victims of this system organically know that the tripwires to genocide have already been sprung.
We have arrived at this point in American history where we don’t need to be polite, or feign ignorance of intentional murder of black boys and men every 26 hours. These murders are not random. They are predicable. The only subjects worthy of debate are the root causes and how to fight our way out of this death trap called the United States. From 1619 the beast has developed an addiction for African labor and African blood. The slave patrollers, predecessor to modern police officers would sing in 1851 as they hunted down Africans courageously fleeing captivity and terror:
“Oh run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you
Run nigger run well you better get away
Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you
Run nigger run well you better get away
Nigger run nigger flew
Nigger tore his shirt in two
Run run the patty roller will get you
Run nigger run well you better get away…”
With the slaughter of Freddy Grey in Baltimore, presumably for eyeballing and running away from police… in Oklahoma, Walter Scott for running from police, Vonderitt Myers in St. Louis for running with his friends — the song retains its deadly currency.
Our existence in the midst of political and social crises undermines the analytical tools to assess empirical realities and contrast them with myths created by a society that has perfected creating spaces of illusion so tangible that one can live in deniability. Ralph Ellison acknowledges this truth when questioning the invisibility of black people; A people perhaps, existing on the other side of otherness. Fundamentally, one could question how can a people be under genocide when no one acknowledges their existence, their pain and the gurgling sound of their asphyxiation? This is the American exceptionalism that Africans people know all too well.
But there are other sounds that perplex the deadly powerful, the purveyors of violence, globalized white supremacy and cultural imperialist, the voices shouting Black Lives Matter!– No Justice No Peace! The unrelenting sounds of black people in the streets across America refusing to go gently “into that good night.” Everyday people fighting for their neighbors, filming police shattering the spine and breaking the neck of a 25-year-old and refusing to be silent in the face of a monstrous system that would shoot a 12 year old boy running towards “Officer Friendly,” hoping, perhaps to play cops and robbers with him. Tamir joins Emmitt Till in an uniquely grotesque brotherhood of death on the streets of America where blood, dirt and white hatred walks around with impunity. Tamir and Emmitt, two children symbolizing the interconnectivity of the black experience from the 20th to the 21st century. Boys not permitted to enjoy childhood and certainly not permitted to forget for one moment that being African in America carries a death sentence.
Samaria Rice, the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice live in the space of unassailable grace. She is fearless having lost and regained her sea legs. Samaria’s interview below underlines her resistance, her indefatigable journey to expose the killer of her child and to end the drumbeat of murder of black children and genocide of her people.
Coleman-Adebayo: Before we discuss the murder of your 12-year-old son, Tamir Rice, could you please tell our readers something about his personality and what he was like as a child?
Samaria Rice: Tamir was a loving child with a big smile. His smile could warm a room. He was a helper and had an all-American kid attitude. He loved all sports. Tamir enjoyed most soccer, swimming and basketball. He was very talented and excelled in all sports including football and anything else he tried. Tamir could do it all.
Coleman-Adebayo: Where was Tamir playing before he was killed by Cleveland Police? How did you find out that Tamir had been shot?
Samaria Rice: Tamir was playing at Cudell Recreation Center. It is a City facility and was across the street from my house at the time. Every Saturday they had programming and Tamir and Tajai (Samaria’s 14-year-old daughter) would go over to swim, use the internet, participate in Arts & Crafts. The recreation center was the community’s place for all the neighborhood kids to enjoy a positive environment.
Coleman-Adebayo: It is reported that your daughter attempted to save Tamir’s life. Did the police assist your daughter in her efforts to save Tamir’s life or did they prevent her from providing life-saving attention to Tamir?
Samaria Rice: Tajai and Tamir were the closest of all my two children. They looked like twins and were inseparable. On that Saturday, they both went to the recreation center together. Tajai was inside for just a moment when kids alerted her that the police had shot her brother. Tajai was running to her brother’s side when she saw him laying on the ground fighting for his life. She was tackled, handcuffed, and placed inside of the police cruiser. Tajai was denied access to her brother. Tajai was placed in the cruiser just a few feet away from her dying brother. Tajai was forced to watch him die with no one at his side.
Because she is older it was her responsibility to watch her brother.
Tamir joins Emmitt Till in an uniquely grotesque brotherhood of death on the streets of America where blood, dirt and white hatred walks around in blue uniforms exercising their state-sponsored license to kill Africans with impunity. Perhaps, the brutal murders of Tamir and Emmitt profoundly crystallize the interconnectivity of the black experience from the 20th to the 21st century. Boys not permitted to enjoy childhood and certainly not permitted to forget for one moment that being African in America carries a death sentence.
Samaria Rice, the mother of 12-year-old Tamir lives in a space of unassailable grace. She is fearless having lost and regained her sea legs. Samaria’s interview below underlines her resistance, her unfathomable journey to expose the killer of her child and to end the drumbeat of murder of black children and genocide of her people. In Part II, I explore the moments after Tamir was shot by Cleveland, Ohio police. It was established in Part I that Cleveland police refused to allow Tamir’s 14-year-old sister Tajai to provide life-saving techniques and save her brother’s life. She was manhandled, handcuffed and forced to sit in the back of the same patrol car that was used in the execution of her brother.
Coleman-Adebayo: Did the police prevent you from providing life-saving medical attention to Tamir? If so, how?
Samaria Rice: After the Police shot my son, two little boys that knew Tamir ran to my house and told me what had happened. I ran over as fast as I could. When I got there, I saw my son on the ground not receiving any first aid. I saw my daughter being handcuffed and locked in the back of a police cruiser. I was torn and between which child to assist. I was denied access to either child. I was told by the Police that I had two choices: go with my dying child in the ambulance or with my child that was in the rear of the police cruiser. I had to choose.
Coleman-Adebayo: The City of Cleveland has issued a report, essentially blaming Tamir for his own death. Can you elaborate?
Samaria Rice: All I can say about the city of Cleveland’s answer blaming my son for his own death is that as a mother no one has explained to me why my child is dead. The decision to blame my son for his own death is disrespectful and it hurts. How can a 12-year-old child be expected to understand danger like an adult. The City of Cleveland has put an unfair adult like burden on my son. Twelve-year-olds can not do a number of things in society because they are too immature and can not appreciate the consequence of their actions. Tamir still watches “Curious George” he has no idea that the police could perceive a toy to be life threatening.
Coleman-Adebayo: What are the next steps in seeking justice for Tamir and how can the public help you and your family in this struggle?
Samaria Rice: The next steps are to continue to speak out and raise awareness of about these unjustified killings. It will not stop until accountability is demanded and enforced equally.
The public can help by signing our petition and donating to our memorial account. The funds help with travel, signage, and daily expenses while the family pursues justice.
Being thrust into this national issue is a full time job. The GoFundMe account.
Coleman-Adebayo: Thank you for your courage and leadership.