When I was little, I used to run around my neighborhood with toy guns – water guns, cap guns, wimpy bb guns. I used to shoot plastic BBs with my friends-a scraggly crew consisting of 2 little white boys (brothers, if I remember correctly) that were always so dirty from full spring days of tackle football, a black kid with a gap between his front teeth but a nice smile, a freckly tow headed pale girl who helped me navigate the neighborhood, and my best friend at the time would sometimes make an appearance when she was spending time with her dad. There was a smattering of brothers and sisters older and younger than us that clung on the outskirts of our little group, whether to wrestle with us when we did something wrong, or to point us in the “right direction.” I felt like we had our own little ecosystem and honestly didn’t think much went on outside our world. I didn’t pay attention to the cars that drove by and I didn’t wonder what they thought – were we a danger to our community? No. Did we look like it at times? I’m sure.
We played football, we raced bicycles, we drank kool-aid, we played hide and seek, told ghost stories in the old woods, and caught crawdads behind our house, played tag, chased one another around with the BBguns that didn’t even sting when they hit you.
At times we would sit around and wait for one another. Sometimes with BBgun in hand, practice shooting the different imaginary mind made targets around us. I’d even go as far as to say that I probably pointed it at people driving by, crouched down in the grass being as incognito as possible. Pretending. Alone and pretending, as 12 year olds do.
Like Tamir Rice was doing. Maybe he was alone. Maybe he was waiting for his friends, as 12 year olds do. As I did. As many kids do. Children now have airsoft guns, that look a lot like real guns but so did ours back then. They have BBguns. They play with and against one another. They shoot at targets alone. What’s changed?
Despite time changing throughout the years (although in this I must admit I’ve seen kids be so enveloped in the games they are playing that they forget the reality around them – as in, stop playing that game and listen to me teach you things!!), I still see kids playing outside. Cops and robbers. Good guys and bad guys. Pretending. Playing. As 12 year olds do. As Tamir Rice was doing, sitting on the playground.
The difference? I was a white kid living in a low to middle class neighborhood. He’s a black kid. A black CHILD, age 12, with an air-soft gun. Maybe he didn’t have parents who told him to not point it at people, maybe that would make things different, maybe not. Hell, as an adult I’ve rolled around in the leaves hiding from my nephews in Tennessee pretending to shoot things at one another.
It makes me sick that Tamir was killed not just for being a child, but mainly for being black.