Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Tamir Rice and the rationalization of systemic racism

This post from Ben Irwin is really thought provoking.

Ben Irwin

tamir-rice-326e772c09b920c4He should’ve just gotten on the sidewalk.

He shouldn’t have resisted.

He shouldn’t have been playing with a fake gun.

These are the excuses we use to rationalize the murder of unarmed black males by those sworn to protect. They’re the excuses we use to deny the systemic racism that pervades our society—a society where black teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, a society where blacks receive longer prison sentences than whites for the SAME CRIMES (HT Qasim Rashid), a society where you can’t even get a grand jury indictment in a death the medical examiner ruled a homicide.

The double standard is breathtaking.

Like Tamir Rice, gunned down by police for playing with a fake gun. The police cruiser that came careening up to him (honestly, how would you have reacted?) barely came to a stop when Officer Timothy Loehmann…

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2 comments on “Tamir Rice and the rationalization of systemic racism

  1. newworlddad
    December 10, 2014

    It is indeed thought provoking. For me, the thoughts were – ‘My, these posts full of vague, generalized references make my head hurt’, and ‘What universe does Mr. Irwin live in where the facts- in so much as any of us can ‘know’ them- are of no value or concern?’

    Jennifer, I can’t come close to expressing my gratitude for all the messages you put out into the world re sexualization of our young girls, but this is the second time I’ve visited Ben’s site based on a rec from you and left with a keen awareness that- on some issues at least- he and I really look at things from different perspectives.

    I won’t deny some of the points Ben makes, and I do agree that all of us need to constantly reevaluate our assumptions, inherent prejudices, etc. If there is unjust business being conducted, by anybody, regardless of the position they hold, by all means, let’s expose that and right it asap. But I hear a lot of statements from people that seem to indicate they are oblivious to or wholly in denial of the facts (again, as any of us can know them, based on whatever evidence is brought to light). Twitter in particular seems to invite off the cuff, reckless statements that are great at inciting emotion or knee-jerk reactions; somebody was ‘killed for selling cigarettes’, as if a cop went up to somebody and said ‘ah, it’s you, selling cigarettes again’…BAM.

    I’m not aware of anybody recently who was murdered for selling cigarettes; I know of a case where somebody apparently died while resisting arrest. Was excessive force used, resulting in a man’s death? I have no idea what actually happened because I wasn’t there. But a jury said that wasn’t the case. Is the jury racist? And the unarmed black man ‘lynched’ for no good reason; another jury found that not to be the case. They too, are racist then? Perhaps they are. Yet it seems many are unwilling to consider another alternative- that sometimes, people who make bad choices will come to a bad, even tragic end. I will tell my daughters- who I obviously love more than my own life- if the day ever comes when they find themselves trying to take a police officer’s gun away from him/her, none of us should be shocked if they end up dead.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      December 10, 2014

      Thanks for your comment. It reminds me of some conversations that have been going on in my college class. We’ve been discussing topics that many of my students have vastly different perspectives on. Sometimes the disagreement causes tension that is palpable, uncomfortable, and hard to handle.

      But I think it’s vital for us to have those conversations. If I only ever talk with people who agree with me, how will I grow? How will I challenge my own assumptions? How will I open my eyes and heart to attempt to understand the perspective of someone whose life experiences are vastly different from my own? That’s what I like about Ben’s blog posts. I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think. I really appreciate being called into that discomfort. That’s why I’m also glad that you shared your thoughts! Your arguments challenge me as well.

      But I also cannot always accept things handed down by a system, even one I deeply appreciate. Because systems aren’t perfect. I must be willing to question things that seem unjust to me. Martin Luther King Jr said,

      “I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed by the white moderate,” he wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice, who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action,’ who paternalistically believes that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”

      I refuse to be that white moderate. If there is pain, anger, and the perception of injustice in the hearts of my brothers and sisters of color, I must listen, I must open my heart to the possibility that their lived experience is vastly different from mine and that given the same circumstances, I would have the same perspective. I cannot rightly close my heart to that possibility. I must honor my brothers and sisters in hearing and accepting their pain. That’s where I have to stand.

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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