You don’t need to watch the Tyre Nichols videos to be horrified. If you have seen them, you know the horror. If you are curious and can stomach it, a simple Google search will lead you to them. A 29-year-old man is beaten to death on camera after he’s pulled over in Memphis. That’s all you really need to know. And so what follows here is absolutely nothing new. There is zero to say that has not been said before.
We have militarized our police forces. We have created a culture of brutality. We have done nothing to fix the system that breeds this madness. Don’t tell me that this has always existed and it’s just televised now. Don’t tell me new racial justice programs and trainings are the solve. Don’t tell me that body cameras stop a damn thing. This is about power and class. Fear and loathing. Violence and cruelty. It is inhumane. And it will not change until our banks and brands and the media and our corporations and our politics — the entire system — finds a new way.
When the entire system makes individuals expendable, when it shits on anyone who is not a billionaire, when it refuses to confront its mistakes and change its structures to spread wealth, prosperity, and social well-being across class, race, region, and upbringing, we will keep seeing brutal acts between us. You can frame these acts of horror any way you want, but on that video is a group of thugs beating a young man to death, proving they are better than, they are more powerful, they are worthy of life and he is not.
I excuse not a single one of them for a micro-second. I am pulling the camera back for us to try to see that all the post-2020 policy changes have done nothing. They have perhaps moved the needle by a hair when it needs moving by 1,619 miles. It is all puffery and PR spin and well chosen words to prop up politicians and policy-makers who claim to care. If they genuinely wanted change — in our streets, in our homes, in our bank accounts, and in how we treat one another — they would revolutionize our economic and political system so that power itself is no longer concentrated in one small, tiny, minuscule portion of the population.
It is our concentration of political and economic power that is killing us all. Strong words and a taller order, I know. I get it. I don’t claim to have quick answers. But when we talk about systemic change, we can’t just talk about the police system. We have to talk about the entire system, of which the police are the foot soldiers. It is our relationship to power that must be changed. And it must be changed in ways that we do not yet recognize. We have never apportioned power in a truly fair way in America. We try. We make progress. Yes. But we have much, much further to go. And any politician not talking about the system as a whole is not worth a single second of air time. Especially not when the “airwaves” are streaming with horrific videos like this.
This poor man. His poor, distraught family. May God bless them all.