Some of The New York Times’s reporting on the case of Tamir Rice and its aftermath remain true. For instance, Samaria Rice did live in a shelter with her daughter Tajai, and while at the time the video was made they remained there, they moved to a small home during the Spring. According to what Rice’s attorney told The Plain Dealer, “the outpouring of support, [enabled her] to find a safe, private domicile […]” As stated in the Times op-doc, Ms. Rice chose to leave the residence near Cudell Recreation Center, a location she aptly terms, “the killing field,” where Officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir. The Rice family’s suffering continues to weigh heavily on them.
Once again, poverty significantly informs the disgrace the Rice family endures. Loehmann killed rice in November. The family held a memorial service at Mount Sinai Baptist Church for Tamir 10 days after his death on November 22, 2014. Lack of money has contributed to the family’s inability to bury Tamir. The Plain Dealer also reported that the Rice family attorney contends that Tamir’s body had remained uninterred “because the family did not know whether the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office would need to re-examine” the boy’s body.
I remember reading that black families who experienced lynchings had varying responses to burying their dead. Some families made arrangements for dignified services that stood in stark contrast to the ghoulish manner of the murder. Others maintained the belief that those who committed the crime should be responsible for burying the body they lynched. The family of 14-year-old George Stinney Jr., the youngest person executed in the United States, were forced to leave town by those promising to lynch them if they stayed. After Stinney’s execution, his body was buried in an unmarked grave. According to Stinney’s sister, Amie Ruffner, the family’s rationale for leaving her brother’s grave unmarked had much to do with giving him a measure of peace: “If we had allowed a stone to be there, and someone would have found out where my brother was, they probably would have dug his grave up and thrown him to the wolves.” Stinney, who was finally exonerated 70-years later, now has a headstone:
The Stinney’s decision to leave their son’s grave unmarked and the terror they felt when told to leave town are plausible given the realities of Jim Crow violence. The nation’s claims of racial progress since the Jim Crow era are less plausible given that Ms. Rice’s dismal choices mirror those of black families during those savage yesterdays. To that end, only a few weeks ago, Samaria Rice “decided” to have her son’s body cremated–presumably because she could not pay the $18,000 debt she owed the Medical Examiner’s Office, which charges $75 to hold a dead body in refrigeration.
This Memorial Day, I am nearly overwhelmed by the mean-spirited, cruel, bitter, and spiteful manner in which the U.S. continues to treat black children–especially those “living in poverty” (see: Red Nose post). Given the slow pace of an “investigation” that the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled a “HOMICIDE” and the Office’s recommendation that holding Tamir’s body was less costly than having to exhume it later, Tamir’s mother now has a bill for a future need that has become impossible. It’s hard for me to even imagine Samaria Rice ever living in peace…one can only pray.