On January 7th, Tyre Nichols was pulled over by five Memphis police officers for “reckless driving” according to NBC News. What followed was 13 minutes of him being brutally beaten and tased by these police officers. He died in the hospital three days later.
When I first heard Tyre’s name circling around social media, I figured it was another classic case of a White police officer racially profiling a Black man. I avoided looking into his case for a couple of days, with feelings of deja vu plaguing my soul. Why read about yet another promising black man slain by the system?
Then, a couple of days later, I was casually scrolling through my Instagram, looking for a distraction from the homework I should have been doing. I usually speed run through these stories, unless something catches my eye. And so as I was tapping away, a story reel with the words “five Black police officers” was headlined and cut to a video.
I decided to tap back and watch the reel, which talked about Tyre’s killers. I couldn’t watch the whole thing—not because of the graphic content (I’ve been desensitized by now)—but because of my shock in learning it was five officers that looked just like me and Tyre.
After confirming this from three other sources, I felt… different. This was not the cold hurting feeling evoked from seeing Derek Chauvin forcing his knee into George Floyd’s neck, or the very similar bludgeoning of Rodney King.
This time around, my blood boiled in not just anger, but betrayal. The actions committed by these officers was not just police brutality. This was a case of intra-community violence that feeds into the same systematic inequalities our black community wish to dispel in America. As a Black man in this society I am forced to recognize that there is a target on my back, but the fight for equality becomes even harder if I have to worry about my own brothers and sisters potentially targeting me as well.
As I transition into my adulthood, I want to pursue a career that allows me to be an advocate for social change and the empowerment of all minorities. It isn’t common for underrepresented communities to be in a position of power like these officers. As Black people we need to hold those opportunities as a chance to uplift our community, not tear it down. Someone who goes into policing should feel that they have just as much, or maybe even more opportunity to uplift their community than someone who becomes a defense attorney.
As the world awaits the fate of those officers, I sympathize and mourn with the family of Tyre Nichols. He was an amazing father to a 4-year-old son, and son to RowVaugn and Rodney Wells. He was also an upcoming photographer and skateboard enthusiast.
All I can hope for is for this to be a lesson for everyone. Tyre Nichols’s life was involuntarily taken, but it shouldn’t be in vain. We all need to do better. But Black people in positions of power particularly, must be accountable to their ethical imperative to uplift and support Black people and communities.
- Race & Ethnicity
- Social Justice