Tamir Rice and the National Case of Affluenza

A person holds up a sign for justice for Tamir Rice during a news conference Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Cleveland. Samaria Rice
A person holds up a sign for justice for Tamir Rice during a news conference Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Cleveland. Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir, a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer, said she wants the police officer convicted for killing her son, who was carrying a pellet gun that police say looked real. Tamir Rice was confronted Nov. 22 when officers responded to a 911 call about someone with a gun near a playground. Surveillance video shows him being shot within 2 seconds of a patrol car stopping nearby. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Teenagers make dumb decisions. Their frontal lobes are not fully formed so they don't understand consequences. They make big mistakes, sometimes fatal ones. I am not one who believes they should be meted out stiff sentences for their tragic mistakes as if they were thirty, but it seems an inconvenience for society to recognize the difference between adults and non-adults.

Maybe if Donald Trump gets elected he will take up where Newt Gingrich left off and establish workhouses, places we can send wayward children where they can learn their lessons with the beatings and rancid vittles described by Dickens. Then parents and society can breathe easy.

In the case of sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch, a dumb teen, he got off easy for his tragic mistake because he was rich. He killed four while driving drunk. Ethan, who comes from a wealthy white family, did not get into his car drunk intending to kill anyone. He did not understand the gravity of his condition and that very bad things can happen. But that is not why Ethan got probation for his offense. He got probation because of "affluenza," a virus discovered by a defense-attorney-paid psychologist. It was argued that his wealth, not his stupidity, caused his errant behavior and he was given probation.

Ethan's mother is in Mexico with her son, where she took him for vacation, thus violating his probation. She has a fully formed frontal lobe, so I question her actions and hope she faces punished for them along with her son.

We'd have to be blind not to see what happens in court and on the streets to black teens whose parents are not rich. We have seen, in the case of Trayvon Martin, what happens when they do nothing at all except try to defend themselves against a stalker. These teens tend to be shot on sight and those who kill them in many cases are let off to the cheers of gun totin' white Americans adamant that standing your ground means you can pick a fight and end it with murder, especially if the person you kill is black. And in many celebrated recent cases, this rule also applies to police officers.

When we serve so-called justice in this country, it is overwhelmingly the poor or dark of skin who pay the price for their actions. In the minds of many, the parents of those who are poor or dark are guilty. Why was their son out so late? Do these same minds question the white, affluent parents of the other boys who do wrong, like the ones who murdered students at Columbine? Does the white mind understand only in those cases how a parent might be oblivious or just foolhardy?

While black people mourn the deaths of their teenagers, police departments do their best to tarnish the characters of those who've been gunned down and have invented a new word that makes a teen automatically guilty: Waist-band. Reaching for one's "waist-band" seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue who "stands their ground."

In the case of one child, Tamir Rice, who was twelve and shot dead within three seconds of the police's arrival, he too was "reaching for his waist-band." But at first the cops said he was pointing the weapon and appeared to be threatening others in the gazebo. On camera there were no others in the gazebo. On camera, Tamir walks up to the police car as if to talk to them. The police, for unexplained reasons, pulled up within a few feet of the the twelve-year-old boy, who they believed to be a grown man, they've said. They claimed they warned him three times to drop his weapon, and then the video emerged and that seemed unlikely.

It took a year for the state prosecutor in Ohio to come up with enough testimonials and frame by frame video to come to the conclusion that he intended to come up with all along. The cops did nothing wrong. We don't see Tamir reach for his waist-band in the video, but apparently the experts did. All the rest of us see what happened in real time, and we also see the cops tackling Tamir's distraught sister, who was 14, and putting her in the squad car where she watches her brother die before her eyes, unable to help him. One wonders what her life is now, and what it will be forever because of what happened? Or do we?

Tamir was twelve years old, and that is enough to make me weep.

I remember my nephew when he was that age. At that age a boy still wants to play with Legos and toy guns, but he also knows that the days of innocence are closing fast. I remember myself at twelve, when l still loved my dolls but was questioning what it was about them that I believed in. It finally dawned on me that my bike wasn't the sports car I thought it was. I was beginning to feel all the fantasy I so enjoyed slipping away and not understanding where it was going. That is the age we are still trying to hold on to a world that remains apart from the adults we don't particularly want to be around nor become.

When did the cops realize that Tamir was boy, I wonder? That is not on the video. Was it while they were not checking for a pulse or doing anything to aid him after they recovered his toy gun?

I don't know what the police officers were feeling or thinking when they pulled up. I know that they weren't suffering from "affluenza" because they don't make enough money to carry that virus. I know that one of the officers failed so miserably in his police training and in his use and understanding of a gun that he was outright turned down by other police departments. I don't know what was in his heart, but I do know he became a cop knowing he was not qualified, and he has a frontal lobe that understands the consequences of that.

Cleveland did not have to understand this officer's heart either, they just needed to read his miserable report card. They didn't.

I don't know what is in anybody's heart but my own. As a white person I know what has seeped into mine and I suspect that these cops did not approach that black boy as they would have approached a white boy. White people don't see black people as we see ourselves, not deeply and truly. And so I mourn the loss of this boy, and the loss my own heart. He looked like he was twelve, not twenty, especially if you are looking at him through the eyes of an African American. White people have to admit to that and do something to make it right.

The exposure of police department brutality, which has come to light mostly because of cell phone videos, is not just a black and white issue, though. Not in its gut. It's a human issue, and it's economic. Our lives are worth and measured by how much money we make, or how much money our parents do. I'm so tired of politicians railing on food stamp recipients and affordable health care. It plays into our tarnished hearts and turns us against each other. Some of the candidates who express these views are heirs to great fortunes. Do they suffer from affluenza, too?

The decision by the prosecutor in the killing of Tamir Rice ought to be condemned by all. The federal government ought to step in and hold as many hearings there as we paid for regarding Benghazi. They ought to rip that department apart, and then come and do it in Chicago, and Los Angeles, and St. Louis. While we run around like beheaded chickens over Muslims and ISIS and illegal immigrants we ought to take real pause and see if we can hear our own heart. Is it still beating?

A new year faces us. Who the hell are we and what have we become if we accept this kind of tragedy as unavoidable? What are our resolves?