I tried to publish a shorter version of this essay closer to the actual murder of Tamir Rice. I e-mailed both the Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer. The Northeast Ohio Media Group is the corporation that owns both major newspapers in Cleveland and Akron, and they didn’t even want to have anything to do with it. With such media ownership, actual discourse is shutdown, silenced, and the uncomfortable doens’t need addressed. I even thought I had found a sympathetic ear with the Call and Post, Ohio’s only Black newspaper, but that led nowhere as well. In the essay below, the point I make over and over again is how the force for violence is lashing out of whiteness against a world of difference. We must understand more than ever how such subjectivity is formed and takes root in the policing culture of Northeast Ohio. We need to be aware of why those in power fail to see Tamir Rice’s death as a murder. This failure is the philosophical task before us, and it’s more important than ever given that all eyes, including the Department of Justice own report on the incident, are on Cleveland. Here’s what I wrote below
The Murder of Tamir Rice and the Subjectivity of His Murderers
In April 2014, Lorain County, just outside of Cleveland, received armored trucks. These armored trucks could protect from roadside bombs, and yet here in Ohio, pictures of White officers securely in their seat and can look out over the average streets of Elyria and feel safe, secure, and confident in their ability to project order. The local news pictured the officers smiling as they sat in the seat looking out of the steel contraption, yet there is a problem. We’ve had to invent a word for it: overmilitarization, and it comes at a price. The over-militarization of police departments enhances the subjectivity that lashes out against difference with force. The subjectivity created, sought after, and reinforced in Northeast Ohio’s police forces takes pleasure in the force it projects and is blind to itself in the question of whether such force is ever truly legitimate.
But make no mistake, the subject lashing out in force was already there, and it’s so common that many – in the media and the community of Cleveland at large – are justifying this prevailing subjectivity as the status quo. White men call into John Denning’s show on WNIR out of Kent, and constantly proclaim how there should be no minorities. We should all be treated the same and ignore the complaint of minorities. Only the delusion of Denning’s audience and even his oversimplified conservative narrative being entirely white and having never known and substantial hardship could make such an innocuous and stupid claim. Neither he nor his audience is alone. In our political climate, sadly, the sides are being drawn along partisan lines. The conservative reaction to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Tamir Rice in Cleveland here is that questioning the institution and its use of violence is justifiable in the service of justifying this social order. Violence is seen as the only measurable response against a world that does not listen to the subject’s desire to assert such authority. Such a desire to assert mastery and authority is at the core of whiteness and police forces that are mostly White. If only Eric Garner in New York City or Michael Brown had just listened, then they’d still be alive according to countless conservatives on talk radio, Fox News, and the ever so definitive former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani.
On the Left, the difference of others inundates the sense of normalcy such police subjects desire in the world, and so now protests are springing up everywhere disrupting everybody’s life. Such public disruptions are a call to attention of how these disruptions feel systemically in all Black Souls. To put that in simpler terms, police white males desire order and security and project those expectations onto the individuals they confront, and the police violence is the symptom of a decisively insipid racism we can no longer confront intellectually. The disruptions alert us to that fact, and they should continue since a call for justice is necessary to reevaluate where the United States is going. The demonstrations should pour over and disrupt the very heart of Playhouse Square and continue until Cleveland itself can cope with a longstanding problem of police violence. They should never end.
Underlying those projections, the desire for mastery and authority justifies violence already before its occurrence. Anytime the police feel the pangs of difference and disorder from the projected whiteness, violence can be justified in terms of how these desires arrange what they desire in the system itself. Violence becomes a way of remastering what is always other and in violence, one unmakes what is other into whiteness by murder or reducing otherness to what can be controlled. If violence unmakes the other, the victim of violence is erased through police murder. If the victim of violence is alive, then the victim is reduced to a body, a thing that can be played and toyed with by the authority that wants to transform the world into whiteness, and in unmaking others into bodies is as long of an American tradition as slavery itself. The taskmaster’s whip turns the victim into a body, and whenever the slave would discover in themselves the desire for freedom in disobedience, the lash was broke over their back to remind them they are just a laboring body. In policing, the subject regards all difference as a body to be subjugated by either respecting authority or, again, asserting that dominion over the victim’s body through the threat of violence and its application.
The problem with violence ultimately is that it unmakes the other and must be renewed to unmake the other into the very desire every time. Such unmaking requires tremendous energy, and police forces recruit subjects that share in the same desire for security and order. These desires cannot be unmasked for what they are since that would undermine the public trust we, the citizens of Northeast Ohio, place in the police. Institutional racism fuels these desires until the point they become normalized and cannot be seen for what they are and the values they promote. These values reflect how the desires are given space in these institutions, and symptomatic of these desires come out in violence. Eventually, unmaking the other will come at the moral cost such violence creates, and now the moral cost of our community is the murder of Tamir Rice.
Tamir Rice was 12, twirling around a toy gun, an airsoft pistol. Yet, make no mistake. Officer Timothy Loehmann was already incompetent, lacking the skills to be a police officer to follow instructions or properly handle his weapon according to his former employment in Independence, Ohio. Officer Frank Garmback, the driver, had already settled an excessive force charge of $100,000 earlier in 2014. As the video clearly shows, Loehmann shot the kid in seconds. They did not approach the scene reasonably, tell the kid they knew he had what looks like a weapon, or take proper cover. In the end, they pulled next to the kid and shot him. They executed what they thought was a threat, but the very incompetency and institutional backdrop that informs their very subjectivity means the officers are a product of a system that cannot recognize its own responsiblity in Rice’s death. They murdered him. They shot a boy with an airsoft gun alone and playing at a park, and it is no surprise that they – being institution of the police or those that espouse blind faith in the police – cannot fathom how it is murder.