A year and a half after Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland police, the city has finally reached an settlement with his family for $6 million. This settlement marks the abrupt end to the Rice family’s search for emotional recompense after almost two years of bitter legal struggle. But despite the sputtering end to the Rice family’s story, it doesn’t mean that the pursuit of racial justice should be discouraged. Although the Rice family can no longer press charges against the Cleveland police, there are still avenues through which they can attain justice for their son.
The City of Cleveland owes the Rice family much more than a settlement. Money could never pay for the life of a human being, especially not the life of an innocent child. Often used as a means of avoiding a lengthy and expensive legal battle, settlements consist of a private agreement made by the offender with the wronged party. Should the perpetrator never face legal punishment for their crime, they might continue to repeat the same patterns of behavior since they have essentially gotten away with it.
Ultimately, the burden of justice should not fall on the Rice family. After losing their young son to a tragic event, they do not deserve to be expending their time, energy and resources to get closure. When offered the $6 million to settle and put an end to the emotionally exhausting process, they naturally elected to take the deal. As a result, the City of Cleveland is free from having to admit to wrongdoing and the Rice family can no longer continue to fight for their slain relatives under the law.
This denial of justice speaks to a larger problem with the American legal system. Families get backed into a corner when it comes to cases like the Rice’s, choosing to settle after a long and painful series of indignities meted out to them by the law. It is extremely difficult to win these types of cases as one family and those representing them are up against an entire city with a close-knit network of district attorneys, police and local law offices. Rather than pursuing truth and an end to hostility, the officials would prefer to protect themselves from the repercussions of systematic violence and to stew in the malevolence brought about by a history of racial inequity.
There are still opportunities in which anyone can pick up the Rice’s cause to seek true recompense for Tamir’s death. Protests and anger are still valid and effective. Other organizations can pursue civil suits and pressure the city to investigate similar cases of police negligence. Despite what seems like a deliberate failure on the justice system’s part to end the indifference towards black lives, the nation will hopefully continue to march forward to
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 2 print edition. Email Connor Borden at [email protected]