However, Black America not taking responsibility for putting Tamir
out there in the first place makes us seem almost childish in the
eyes of the world and dilutes our case for change. We’re in this; we
are also to blame. White America sees and knows this but is
reluctant to say that out loud because everybody’s afraid of being
accused of being racist. Well, I’ll say it: yes, Loehmann killed
Tamir Rice—certainly by shooting the child but also by standing
around, just as Officer Darren Wilson stood around a dying Michael
Brown —doing nothing and watching the boy bleed out. That’s the part
I really don’t understand; why Loehmann or his partner didn’t rush
to Tamir’s aid the moment the boy hit the snow, why Wilson didn’t
administer CPR to Mike Brown but just paced about in the street
watching the boy die. To me, the refusal of a sworn officer to
administer aid are criminal acts compounded on top of the officers’
original criminal acts of having shot these kids in the first place.
But we are also to blame. Whoever gave Tamir that Airsoft pistol, or
whomever left it lying around where he could find it, is also to
blame. Michael Brown was no boy scout; he was a bully who bullied
people, a thief who stole from people, and a brute with no respect
for authority who attacked a police officer. We’re all to blame for
that. It’s easy to point and accuse folks of bad parenting, but, in
this world, we all are Mike Brown’s parents, are Tamir Rice’s
Why didn’t some passerby take the Airsoft gun from Tamir? Nobody
wants to get involved. Why didn’t Officer Wilson know who Mike Brown
was—I mean, that was that officer’s beat, right? It’s an officer’s
*responsibility* to know who lives and works and moves on his beat.
If you see a black kid waving around a realistic toy gun, it’s your
*responsibility* to get involved. I don’t care if the boy’s folks
scream at you—let them scream. Their boy came home alive.
This is what I don’t get. Growing up, there was absolutely no way I
could be wandering around a public park waving a realistic-looking
toy gun. Every mom on my block was my mom, every grandma was my
grandma. Heck, one of the hood rats hanging out in the park would
have snatched it from me and berated me for being reckless and
stupid. What happened? Why don’t we watch out for one another
anymore? And, when tragedy strikes, why do we always, always, always
blame everybody else?
None of us—family, friends, media, cops, white or black—want to take
responsibility anymore. For anything. The emergent face of this
phenomena is none other than our great moralist Dr. William H.
Cosby. 2015 ended on a tragic note for Black America with Cosby
indicted on charges of sexual assault. While I consider it highly
unlikely America’s fallen icon will be convicted by the political
showcase trial (built on flimsy evidence as part of the D.A.’s
reelection campaign), the public release of Cosby’s depositions
admitting to the behavior dispels the cloud of guilt swirling around
the 78-year old and seals his life’s work with an official
An American Tragedy:
This mug shot was what they were after, and, rather than accept responsibility
(and, apparently, having learned
nothing from Michael Jackson's troubles), Cosby gave it to them.
Even if he never spends a single day in prison, their work is done: destroy America's living black icon.
“If your block is messy, clean it up,”
Cosby once said. “Doesn’t matter if you own it, you live there. Take
responsibility.” This is something the comedian certainly could have
effortlessly done himself: take responsibility for the horrifying
and still-emerging crimes he himself has committed. Most of those
cases are now beyond the reach of criminal justice, but Cos could
have stepped up, taken responsibility, compensated his victims, and
left the public stage with at least some small shred of dignity.
That dignity is now long gone; I don’t actually even know what Cos
is protecting, why he’s dug in and flailing; fighting so futilely.
Our great moral leader’s failure to take even the smallest shred of
responsibility for his own failures now undermines everything he’s
attempted to teach the Black community or endow us with. It’s all
tainted now, because this man is lodged in some bizarre battle to
save his dignity; a battle he’s already lost.
As such, Cosby is now the new model for the hollowing of Black
America. In stark contrast to James Brown’s iconic song Say It Loud
(I’m Black And I’m Proud), I am, these days, frequently embarrassed
to be thought of as someone who defends the indefensible; as a
finger-pointer marching around and screaming histrionically and
irrationally while not accepting even one bit of responsibility
for the wave of tragedies besetting our community. It embarrasses me
to have white friends tip-toe around these subjects because I
presumed to be shallow and irrational and, yes, racist. Assuming all
black people think alike is racism in and of itself.
As such, I won’t be marching. I won’t be screaming, I won’t be
blaming anybody until we all—black and white, parents and neighbors,
young and old, Democrat and Republican—stop this childish and
insidious practice of blaming the Other Guy while taking absolutely
no responsibility of our own.
Black Lives, Black Accountability
Tamir Rice is dead because a cop shot him, because the same cop then
just stood around and watched him bleed out. But Tamir is dead also
because somebody allowed him to play with a realistic toy gun,
unsupervised, in a public park in a bad neighborhood patrolled by
bad cops. Tamir is dead because any one of dozens of passersby
didn’t just take the thing from him or call his parents. Now
everyone wants to blame the police dispatcher who, yes, badly
dropped the ball when passing information onto the officers. And,
yes, I believe those officers acted criminally and deserve
But lets’ cut the nonsense: Tamir Rice is dead, and we all are to
blame. He was our kid. He was our family. I am deeply ashamed,
embarrassed and disgusted by Black America using the same
disingenuous political dodges and lies that are conservative
Republicans’ (and just as often liberal Democrats’) stock and trade.
Our protest would have much more meaning if we weren’t avoiding our
own responsibility in these many events: in virtually every case of
alleged or proven police abuse the victim was behaving culpably if
not criminally. None of which gives police or anyone else the right
to shoot blacks down at-will, but whitewashing these tragedies to
suit our political purposes undermines our own cause.
I agree: Black Lives do Matter. So does Black Responsibility
and Black Accountability. Which is why we all, as a people,
should step up and work on our own failings as parents, as friends,
as a community. Until we do, our outrage is just the hollow ringing
of a bell. Integrity is an indispensable component of social
Christopher J. Priest
2 May 2015
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