This post originally appeared on AddictingInfo.org.
Perhaps fed up with the wishy washy way the media are expected to behave towards facts (“You gotta hear both sides,” “fair and balanced”), the New York Times once again became one of the few major media outlets in the country to have the guts to unequivocally say what many of us already knew: 12-year-old Tamir Rice would be alive today if he was white and rich instead of black and poor.
The New York Times editorial board has made a name for itself as being brave enough to take a stand on deeply partisan issues and generally giving zero f*cks about what their (mostly conservative) critics think about them. They recently published a front page piece calling out America for its sickening gun problem. It was a piece so blistering that it prompted at least one conservative pundit to actually shoot the paper with a gun in anger.
This week after news that, at the urging of the county prosecutor, a Cleveland grand jury decided to not indict the officers involved in 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s shooting, the same editorial board blasted the city of Cleveland and the abortion of justice that took place there. Unlike other journalists who erred on the side of caution, the board connected the obvious dots and concluded that this shooting, like many shootings across the country, was at the intersection of racism, poverty, and police abuse:
Tamir Rice of Cleveland would be alive today had he been a white 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in just about any middle-class neighborhood in the country on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014.
But Tamir, who was shot to death by a white police officer that day, had the misfortune of being black in a poor area of Cleveland, where the police have historically behaved as an occupying force that shoots first and asks questions later. To grow up black and male in such a place is to live a highly circumscribed life, hemmed in by forces that deny your humanity and conspire to kill you.
The op-ed went on to say that the investigation after the shooting was also tainted with similar race and class issues. For those of us watching the press conference with the county prosecutor announcing the grand jury decision, this fact was astonishingly clear. The man ostensibly in charge of building a case against the police department did everything he could to shield them from consequences. On live television he then proceeded to demonize and smear the 12-year-old victim. The boy, he argued, was “big” for his age. His friend (referred to as his “associate” like this was an episode of Law and Order) once recalled that Tamir like to play games like cops-and-robbers. The police were scared for their lives. After dragging Tamir’s name through the mud, he concluded that it was not his job to “second guess police officers.”
With clinical precision, the NY Times dismantled the prosecutor’s defenses. A real crime had been committed here by the officers. This was not just an unavoidable tragedy.
The Police Department’s disregard for life was fully evident in the way the officers behaved after shooting Tamir. A surveillance video shows them standing by the child for four minutes without giving medical assistance, which was finally provided by an F.B.I. agent who happened to be in the neighborhood. Officer Frank Garmback, Officer Loehmann’s partner, nonetheless tackled the wounded boy’s 14-year-old sister as she tried to rush to his side. One can only imagine her suffering as she watched in handcuffs from the back seat of the squad car while her brother lay bleeding on the ground.
In addition to portraying the killing as a result of a tragic misunderstanding, prosecutors have also suggested the officer’s decision to kill Tamir was shaped by the fact that the surrounding neighborhood had a history of violence and that the boy appeared to be older than 12 because he was big for his age.
From the police department’s own statements and the embarrassing press conference held by the county prosecutor it was clear that the city of Cleveland was hoping to spin the events in such a way that most Americans would blame Tamir Rice for his own death and move on. As despicable as that may be, it’s clear that – as far as the New York Times is concerned – this hack job was an abject failure. They aren’t fooling anyone and are being rightfully called out.
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