Why not more outrage over Tamir Rice killing?

Legal analyst questions Tamir Rice decision
Legal analyst questions Tamir Rice decision

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Story highlights

  • Issac Bailey says whites should share the outrage over Rice's killing
  • He says black boys are targeted in so many ways, yet society at large is in denial

Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for the past two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman Fellow. Twitter: @ijbailey The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)It. Hurts. Like. Hell.

The news out of Cleveland -- not only that the officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice won't be facing criminal charges, but that the prosecutor explained it away as little more than another "tragic" event caused, in part, by Rice for having the temerity to play with a toy gun in an open carry state -- broke my heart.
"The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy but it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime," Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said Monday while announcing the decision.
Issac Bailey
The officer "had reason to fear for his life," McGinty said, because Rice allegedly was pulling the pellet gun from his waistband.
It's not as though I wasn't expecting that decision. I know most police shootings are deemed justified. I know prosecutors, who are prone to see things strictly from the law enforcement point of view, hold sway over grand jury proceedings.
Still, it hit me hard, maybe because I have a son who is only 152 days older than Rice, maybe because it comes on the heels of the hung jury in the first Freddie Gray case in Baltimore.
I wasn't alone in my reaction:
Maybe it is rage I feel, and maybe it is OK to feel that way. I just wonder why more white people don't feel the same.
There are some who seem to get it, like political commentator Sally Kohn, who tweeted this:
But why aren't more white people screaming about this plague? Why aren't more white people standing up and demanding that this kind of injustice no longer stand?
Why aren't more white people mourning Rice with us?
Why do so many white people seem content to explain away or justify these kinds of events, or seem to not notice much at all?
Prosecutor: "Perfect storm of human error" killed Tamir Rice
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Why aren't they, too, in despair?
The Department of Education found that little black boys (and increasingly girls) are being expelled from school as early as kindergarten and preschool because they are perceived as threats. Others have found that little black boys and black girls are perceived to be older than they usually are, making it less likely that those who don't know them personally will have empathy for them.
Little black boys and black girls are on the wrong end of the divide on too many social issues to count, being poisoned by lead in Baltimore and Detroit, relegated to the worst schools with the most inexperienced teachers, sent into the juvenile justice system at higher rates than their white counterparts for committing the same offenses.
And then they are gunned down in a park by police, and many white people think it is just another tragedy, or turn the subject away from police officers harming and killing our kids to their political football of choice, black-on-black crime.
And they are profiled in a way white boys never will be, no matter how many white boys and men shoot up high schools and elementary schools and shopping malls and movie theaters.
And they when they grow up, they are seen as thugs needing to be contained -- behind bars or anywhere else -- not souls needing to be embraced.
Why can't more people see the cosmic horror of a 12-year-old black boy carrying a toy pellet gun in a park instantly becoming a threat in a state in which grown white men openly carry high-powered weapons?
Why can't they stop, on days like these, hiding behind the "talking about race only makes things worse" canard? In too many ways, little black boys and black girls are not treated with the kindness and care little white boys and white girls take for granted. That's fact, not an unwarranted "injection" of race into these kinds of stories.
Why doesn't that bother more white parents? Why doesn't it terrify them like it does me?
Ever since Trayvon Martin, I've been desperately trying to not give into the anger, the rage, no matter how many debates I hear about how the criminal justice system, from top to bottom, is destroying black families and black lives.
I've been trying to hold fast to my reality, that my black son has never been mistreated by a police officer, has had little reason to feel the fear I felt growing up.
Ever since I've seen the reaction by millions of white to the killing of Martin by George Zimmerman, though, it's becoming harder to maintain that cool. It would be easier to manage if I knew that parents of all races were outraged when they see the kind of injustice I see in the Rice case, saw when George Zimmerman walked free. haven't. I've seen even conscientious, kind white people who have children seem unmoved by these happenings. I had an old friend tell me that it makes sense for Zimmerman and others to be suspicious of black boys like Martin (and Rice) because black boys commit a disproportionate amount of crime. (Never mind that the vast majority of black boys don't commit violent acts.)
"Then you are talking about my son," I said.
"No, that's not fair," he returned. "I know your son," not realizing he was sending a message that every black boy needed to personally get his stamp of approval to not be presumed guilty.
I then asked if it was OK to profile white boys like his son because of the awful things other white boys had done. That's when he first erupted in outrage. He felt nothing about a 17-year-old kid walking home from the store being shot to death in his neighborhood; his rage only ignited when I pointed out his hypocrisy.
I asked another white friend how he would feel if someone had stalked and chased down his daughter and killed her during a confrontation.
He brushed me off, said he would have taught her to keep running.
I don't think they meant to sound callous. But they did.
And then they wonder why there's a group dedicated to reminding the country that #BlackLivesMatter.