It's been two weeks and I cannot get used to seeing a boy I knew in the newspaper and on the national news day after day. This news story is personal to me.
I taught kids with special needs for over 30 years, so that's a lot of students. Tamir Rice was one of those students you don't forget. We had our good days and our bad days together in math class first thing in the morning. If Tamir's day had started out well he was bright, charming and hardworking. He was good at math and he knew it, but he required a lot of attention. He wanted to answer every question. He was behind in academics from constantly being moved from school to school. In fact, he was only with us for one year, and that causes great instability in a child's life.
If the day had not started well Tamir was likely to cry and leave the room. But the thing to remember about children's behavior is that it is never their fault. The child who disrupts or is angry or depressed is lacking a basic need in life that only the home can provide. Teachers nurture and care and attend to students' needs as much as they can during the hours they are with them each day. But home is where basic needs of security, stability, love and attention are met. Tamir liked attention, so he, like many other children, got it any way he could. He probably thought he was being funny the day those policemen drove up within a few feet of him.
The thing about Tamir was that even if he gave you a hard time you still liked him. Right now I don't remember the tough days as much as I remember that smile you see every day from some news source. Can't you see the mischievous charm in those eyes? You could plainly see the capacity to achieve and even be a leader if life went his way - which it didn't. What a waste.
Working in a racially diverse school district for 22 years taught me a lot. If you think there is no white privilege then you haven't been around those who struggle every day to keep their children safe, fed, and sheltered. You haven't met a mom who is afraid every day because she has to send her black teenage son out into the world praying he comes home every night. You are not afraid to just walk through your own neighborhood. You're not Trayvon Martin's or Tamir Rice's parents or Eric Garner's children.
I don't have all the answers and I understand that policemen have to defend their own lives. But what about tasers and pepper spray? Could we invest in those? Body cameras are fine but there are videos of Tamir's death and of Eric Garner's death in New York City and no one sees how those black men could have been apprehended without dying?
Eric Garner was unarmed and committing a very minor offense, but now policemen have left more children without a father. They could have even just let him get away - he was selling cigarettes, for God's sake.
Did the Cleveland police have to shoot Tamir from a few feet within two seconds of arriving or could there have been another way? Could they have spent a little more time trying to reason with the unarmed Mr. Garner or did they have to strangle him to death?
Rest in peace Tamir.