This Sad Truth About The RNC & Tamir Rice Proves How Much Work We Need To Do To Value Black Lives

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Cleveland, Ohio has been making headlines this week because of the Republican National Convention. Many attendees have been open-carrying guns through the streets of the city, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that he could not suspend open carry laws just for the sake of the convention. But even as many convention-goers take advantage of this — some going so far as to tote assault rifles — one cannot help but remember that less than two years ago, Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland for holding a toy gun.

The contrast is striking. This is the same city where Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, was shot and killed by police because of a toy gun which, according to his mother Samaria, wasn't even his. And now, armed Donald Trump supporters and other pro-gun activists are permitted to walk through the streets of Cleveland with a number of firearms and very little concern.

In a series of photographs for The New Yorker, photographer Philip Montgomery was able to capture this contrast. He took photos of black activists facing armed police officers and juxtaposed them with Trump supporters, reminding people — as Fusion writer Terrell Jermaine Starr did — that Cleveland was Tamir's city, too.

Samaria Rice told Starr that she would not be protesting the RNC. She said she would stay away from the police officers and Trump supporters in downtown Cleveland, as it would probably be a "hostile" environment for black people. Black Lives Matter Cleveland shared her view, choosing to abstain from RNC protests to do more local organizing work. But the controversy around open carry laws and the RNC reminds us of just how much work there is left to be done.

That the head of the Cleveland police union would ask Kasich to suspend open carry laws when it's officers' lives are potentially at stake — and not black people's lives — was proof that that the system still does not treat black lives as if they matter. It's also a heartbreaking reminder that less than two years after Rice's death, his city has temporarily been taken over by a crowd of people who would openly declare that "blue lives matter" and make white supremacist comments on the convention floor.

Convention attendees should not be able to demean the protesters who have been turning out to remember Rice, nor be able to forget what happened in Cleveland not long before they passed through the city. After all, the RNC is yet another example of how racism is pervasive in powerful institutions, from political parties to law enforcement, and it proves why such protests are necessary in the first place.