Since When Does the Criminal History of a Parent of a Slain Child Matter?
Date:  12-09-2014

Criminal background checks by the media have sunk to a new low
On November 22, Tamir Rice, age 12, was playing with an air-pellet gun at a playground in Cleveland, Ohio. Police received a phone call that a child was pointing a gun, and the caller added the gun was “probably fake.” Seconds after police arrived Tamir was shot dead by an officer.

On December 1 the Huffington Post reported that shortly before the Cleveland, Ohio police department was about to release the disturbing video of the police officer shooting Tamir, the Northeast Ohio Media Group (NOMG) posted an article that Tamir’s parents had criminal record.

Why was this important news? Tamir’s parents had nothing to do with his death. Condemnation of the article was swift, and the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s explanation as to why they considered the information to be newsworthy left many with the view that not only was the answer unsatisfactory, but also a racist attempt to put the blame on a black child and his parents.

The NOMG claimed they did background checks on Tamir’s parents because (unnamed) “People from across the region have been asking whether Rice grew up around violence." White kids from the suburbs also pretend their toy guns are real when they play. Would the NOMG check for a parent’s criminal history if Tamir was white?

The Huffington Post underscores how a past criminal history is often used to dehumanize a victim or his or her family. We often see a murder victim described as a convicted felon, as if that gave another person the right to end the victim’s life. But now certain members of the media have sunk to a new low by doing criminal background checks on family members who have suffered an unspeakable loss, and using that information in an attempt to put the blame on a parent:

“Rather than asking why police officers were so quick to exercise lethal force on a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun, as 12-year-old boys everywhere do, some people are asking instead how Tamir's parents could have allowed their child to get his hands on a fake weapon in the first place. Instead of focusing on how young black males face a far greater risk of being killed by police than their white peers, they blame the grieving parents -- a mother and father who, whatever their legal history, will be going to sleep tonight without their son.”

Read the complete Huffington Post’s article here.