Tamir Rice’s tragic death has exposed painful assumptions that seem hard-wired into the (white) American psyche about black children. The video sequence of Tamir’s killing has been read in a variety of ways. About what could be seen in the video, a Cleveland prosecutor said, “Tamir was big for his age—5 foot 7 and 175 pounds, with a men’s XL jacket and size 36 pants—and could have easily passed for someone much older.”
Moreover, as reported by the Washington Post, “research published last year by the American Psychological Association found ‘evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.’”
Another video is circulating online that has received far fewer views than that of Tamir’s death but also illuminates how we think about childhood, race and, ultimately, violence.
Two little red-haired white girls are opening gifts on Christmas morning. A woman (presumably the mother, only a voice off-camera) hands the girls a large gift bag and says, “This is from Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia. Go ahead, open it.” The younger of the two girls, who appears to be around 2, is sitting on the floor and takes the bag, begging to open it in her sweet baby voice. She pulls out two baby dolls—black baby dolls.
The woman says, “Give Rainie hers. Give Rainie hers.” Rainie, an older child, is standing and takes the doll. She looks at it with a shyly bemused expression, shows the doll quickly to the camera and turns away.
Mother: “What’s wrong?”
Mother: “Do you like it?”