On November 22, 2014, Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann, two Cleveland police officers, responded to a civilian call, informing local authorities of a black male who “keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people.
” Another caller reported that a male was pointing “a pistol” at random people near the Cudell Recreation Center in a small park. Repeatedly throughout the phone call, the citizen stated that the gun was “probably fake.” Near the end of the two-minute long phone call, the caller stated that Rice “is probably a juvenile.” However, Loehmann and Garmback did not receive this intel on the initial dispatch, before it was too late. After pulling up into the parking lot of an empty park, the policemen repeatedly yelled “show me your hands” through their patrol car window. In regards to Rice’s toy gun, Loehmann claimed that he “knew it was a gun and knew it was coming out.
” In response, the officer shot Tamir twice, hitting him once in the torso, which knocked the child onto the ground. After Loehmann shot Tamir, neither he nor Garmback rendered first aid to the boy, who lay motionless on the snow-covered grass. Four minutes later, an FBI agent, who was only there to investigate a nearby robbery, showed up and aided the boy until an ambulance arrived. Tamir Rice passed away the following morning.
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, written in 1946, features Tod Clifton, a young, bright, good-looking individual who has experience within the Brotherhood. Early in the novel, the narrator considers Clifton a competitor and a potential rival figure, but later realizes that Tod is not interested in seizing political power; he sincerely desires helping the youth of Harlem realize their unlimited potential and break out of their limited reality. Later in the book, he is spotted by the narrator selling racist Sambo dolls along the streets. What happened? How could this bright young man become a street vendor who perpetuates black stereotypes after being such an active force in social progress? We never learn the answer to this question, although we receive but a fragment of the narrator’s speculation. While selling his prejudiced merchandise, a policeman pushes him. Rather than to simply accept the shove as he had done many times in the past, he swings at the cop, who proceeds to shoot him.
Clifton’s death triggers several of the narrator’s epiphanies regarding the limitations of Brotherhood ideology. Most important among these is the Brotherhood’s repeated insistence that Clifton’s life is not worth celebrating, despite his many successes early in life. The narrator sees Clifton’s death as the gunning down of an unarmed civilian, while the Brotherhood sees a racist street vendor who got what he had coming. Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, stated she is still angry over her son’s death, and added that she won’t sleep comfortably until police are held accountable, including the two officers who killed her son.”Racism is a disease and until you find a cure, won’t nothing happen in this country,” Rice said.
“I don’t see how anyone is comfortable in this country. No one should be comfortable in this country.” (‘Racism is a disease’)In Invisible Man, by depicting the narrator as socially rather than physically invisible, Ellison pointedly critiques the mechanisms of racism that cast black Americans as stereotyped representations rather than fully developed, complex human beings, as well as listing the ways that blacks can become marginalized if they fail to fit stereotypical depictions. His novel successfully conveys the frustrations that black Americans experience from authority figures on account of stereotyping, despite not conforming to the generalized perception of who black people are.The narrator of Invisible Man uses straight-forward language to illustrate the unnecessary bloodshed that was the killing of Tod Clifton. “Here are the facts.
He was standing and he fell. He fell and he kneeled. He kneeled and he bled. He bled and he died. He fell in a heap like any man and his blood spilled out like any blood; red as any blood, wet as any blood and reflecting the sky and the buildings and birds and trees, or your face if you’d looked into its dulling mirror — and it dried in the sun as blood dries. That’s all.
They spilled his blood and he bled.” (353)Ellison’s novel prompts the reader to think about Tamir and about all those unarmed black men who have been shot in recent years—the New Orleans residents fleeing the flood, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Akai Gurley, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, as well as all of the other cases. The dynamic tension in the narrator’s speech helps emphasize the significance of Clifton’s death to the narrator and his fellow black citizens while simultaneously contrasting how little it means to white America.Since its original sin of slavery, America has been obsessed with the fear of black men. In America, rather than atoning for their sins following the abolition of slavery, white supremacy still manages to project their fears onto black citizens across the country.
This irrational, dangerous trepidation led to the tragic, unnecesary death of Tamir Rice. While darker-skinned men are routinely killed out of the fear that they may have legal or toy guns, and while they’re beaten and killed out for merely selling dolls in the street, white Americans remain free to roam freely and act nonchalantly around police authorities. The narrator summarizes Clifton’s death in one impactful sentence: “If he’d been white, he’d be alive.
” (361)Americans may be less inclined to use racial slurs than they were in 1946, when Invisible Man was published, but the racism that the narrator detects in the police officer is still very much with us even today. Unconscious racism is evident in that “peculiar disposition of the eyes” (3) that prompts whites to see a twelve-year-old African-American individual as a twenty-year old, that condones that battering of a black street vendor, and justifies the atrocities of everyday racism on a consistent basis.