12-year-old shot by police

A 12-year-old shot by police this weekend is dead.

The CHILD, Tamir Rice, was playing with his sister and a friend in a Cleveland, OH, PARK when a grown ass drunk in a bar across the street dialed up police and said a man was waving around a gun, “scaring the s— out of everyone.” That drunk went on to tell the dispatcher that the PERSON they were all scared of was “probably a JUVENILE” and that the gun was “probably fake,” but neither the caller, dispatcher nor cops could be bothered by those details. The police officers responding to the call showed up, guns drawn, told a 12-YEAR OLD CHILD to put his hands in the air and then executed the BOY when he reached for his TOY.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police, is dead.

Don’t say s— to me about how real his TOY gun looked. Don’t say s— to me about legit fears people may have had about the TOY gun or the CHILD who was PLAYING with it in the PARK—in an open-carry state that allows its (white) citizens to wield weapons in public with impunity as part of the law the citizens themselves approved. Don’t say s— to me about concerned citizens and cops doing their jobs. Don’t say s— to me about how a 12-YEAR-OLD BOY PLAYING in a PARK with his friends, completely unaware of drunk neighbors fearing CHILDREN, should have responded to cops screaming at him to raise his hands. Don’t say s— to me about mistakes.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police, is dead.

Instead, let’s talk about these key words: 12-YEAR-OLD CHILD. PERSON. JUVENILE. BOY. TOY. PLAYING. PARK. Tamir Rice was a 12-YEAR-OLD CHILD. A PERSON. A JUVENILE. A BOY who was PLAYING with a TOY in the PARK.

You know what else he was? A BLACK BOY.

But in America, there is not room for Black boys and girls to be children. Ever. Consider these words from child advocate Dr. Stacey Patton, who, just this past Friday, delivered this powerful speech, “There’s No Such Thing As Black Childhood: How the Murders of Trayvon Martin & Mike Brown Are Rooted In Jim Crow Racial Ideology,” at the University of Kentucky College of Law:

From Emmett Till and Mike Brown to legions of other young people whose names and lives have been violently lost to the hidden holocaust of racial history in America, white supremacy REQUIRES the intentional, insidious, and pervasive devaluation and destruction of black childhood.

Rather than a sanctuary from harm, or an eventual route to full adult citizenship, white supremacy REQUIRES that childhood for Black Americans be imagined as devoid of innocence and marked by various processes of imposing stigma, oppression, and danger.

White supremacy REQUIRES that black childhood not be defined, in the western sense, as a distinct period grounded in a linear set of unfolding stages toward maturation, civility, responsibility, and citizenship worthiness, but that it be imagined as undifferentiated from black adulthood and that it be accelerated toward intellectual, spiritual, social, sexual, and physical death.

And, white supremacy REQUIRES the participation of black people (sometimes unintentionally) in that dehumanization process – a process, which unfolds at each developmental milestone in the life of the child – embryonic development, the moment of birth, infancy, adolescence, and puberty. Each life stage is seized by various actors, racialized, and baked into popular images, attitudes, behaviors, educational and medical practice, policing, and social policies around child welfare and juvenile justice. One way we see the evidence is through the repeated failure to prosecute white men who murder unarmed black children…

Friends, racism prevents us from collectively fixing our lips to say, “a child was killed” when the victims are black. In America, the notion of what is a child and who gains access to the category, affords levels of protection, sympathy, innocence, remorse, redemption and the privilege to be a kid, and even making mistakes without the consequences of a social or physical death.

With Dr. Patton’s words ringing in my ears and my heart, I say again, a 12-year-old shot by police this weekend is dead. Tamir Rice was A CHILD. PLAYING WITH A TOY IN THE PARK WITH HIS FRIENDS.

The drunk did not have to call the cops.

The cops should not have shot this child.

Tamir’s mother should not be mourning her son.

Still, here we are again, we Black parents screaming from the rooftops and in cap locks that OUR CHILDREN MATTER—that, in the name of TRAYVON and JORDAN and AIYANA and MIKE and all the other Black children who’ve been bucked down by people with callous regard for our babies’ humanity, this… must… STOP. Another Black child is dead. Another set of Black parents is grieving. Another community has been torn apart. And our hearts, battered and bruised and worn from the continual shock and anger, are shattered and stomped into the ground like dust, left to blow in a bitter wind. Like we’re nothing.

When it happens, and the police shrug their shoulders and get to denying, and the authorities in charge start rolling their tanks and armed troops through American neighborhoods and the national news treats the death of yet another BLACK CHILD like it’s normal to buck down kids in American streets, don’t take to the mic and ask Black parents to be calm.

Fuck calm.

This… madness… must… STOP.

By Any Means Necessary.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I couldn’t have said it better, Denene.

  2. I’ve been debating back and forth if I should leave a comment because I can never eloquently express my thoughts on these stories as you have.

    I am so heartbroken since reading about this story last night. I can’t believe this happened. It’s horrendous, and I agree with so much of what you have said. And I love you!

    On another note, I refuse to raise my son believing that there is no safe place for him in this world. It’s already bad enough that I have to raise him with the understanding that he can’t do and get away with the same things his white friends can.

    I will never buy or allow my son to walk around with a toy gun. He doesn’t have the same privilege of doing such a thing without people considering him suspicious. It’s already hard enough for our boys and I’m not going to be a part of making it harder for him, and I’m too scared of something like this happening. It’s not worth the risk. For now, that is the means I’m taking to keep my baby safe. Hopefully I’ll come up with some better ideas before he grows out of the cute stage.

  3. I’m sick to my stomach reading these stories over and over and over again. The world has gone mad and no one seems to give a damn about what is happening to our children. We are on our own. Thank you, Denene for channeling my outrage and grief and a way so many of us (especially those of us mothers to boys) can’t.

  4. Amen. As a mother to a black son, every day I pray that he will not be added to this list. No toy guns. No playing outside unless I’m there and it’s daylight. No breaking the rules. I can’t imagine what Tamir’s parents are going through. I pray that God will help them get up and take it one minute at a time. That’s all that I could do in their situation.

  5. Another tragic and senseless death of a black child at the hands of the police. As the mother of a 15 year old black son, who is 6′ and 225 lbs, I worry constantly about his safety. Now that he has passed the cute and cuddly baby/toddler stage, his size and color make him seem like a threat even though he is just as much a young teen as the tall well built white teens in the neighborhood. This story makes me heartsick.

  6. Thank you for speaking on our behalf in this unfiltered way. And I’m sorry we have to keep writing about our murders, and our marginalization.

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