Now that the footage from Tyre Nichols’ traffic stop has been released, we see a narrative that is rarely in the forefront of the media. The Black policeman (in this case several of them) mistreating the black man. We see Black men killing other Black men through gang activity or minor disputes so frequently that it’s almost numbing. But the Black policeman hurting the Black man? The one who vowed to protect and serve? This touches a layer of sadness I never knew I could feel.
With all of the headlines revolving around the White policeman and the black man one would think we have had enough. Now we see not one but five Black policemen mistreating and ultimately beating to death a man who looks like them. Even if there was a crime committed that required this amount of force (force meaning the amount of people), is the brutality necessary?
If not the officers who look like him…who’s going to protect the Black man? Love him? Nurture him? Care for him? For those who think…he’s a man, he can protect himself. Have you seen how the world treats him? Belittles him? Emasculates him? Hurts him? Doesn’t allow him the space to feel his emotions? I have spoken with many Black men specifically from America who have expressed feeling they don’t have a safe space in the place that they live, the places they work nor in confidence with the people they are surrounded by.
Imagine how scary it must be to feel consistently like you are in danger for simply living your life. Are you the enemy or the friend? Lover or confidante? Hater or degrader? Look closely and don’t try to disillusion yourself into thinking you’re not a part of the problem.
The Black man is a phenomenal being by design alone. His resilience, his strength, his endurance. He deserves the space to be able to grow to his full potential. Don’t kick him while he’s down. He’s dealing with enough by simply existing.
As a mother with a Black male child, I cannot conceive what this means for my son, a literal part of me, and the world he will have to endure. There are Black men in my life that I love, admire, aspire to see succeed and to think that the world historically doesn’t see them like I do hurts my heart.
I will be moving forward acting on the ways I can help the Black man feel loved and appreciated, desired and celebrated within my capability. What will you do?
To the family of Tyre Nichols, my condolences. I can not conceive all of the things you and your loved ones may be feeling right now. Stay strong. Justice will be served.
A special thank you to Janelle Thompson for inspiring me to write this.
A special thank you to the Black men in my life for allowing me to be your safe space.
And another special thank you to Lucas Gouvêa, Joey Nicotra, Julian Myles, Tamarcus Brown, Prince Akachi, Larry George II, and Terricks Noah for providing the imagery for my piece.
The Murder of Tyre Nichols – Institutionalized Racism Hits Home
I ran to grab a bottle of water while I had a few minutes in between patients, and I walked into the lounge to find Rodney King’s daughter, Lora Dene King, giving an interview about her thoughts on the (at the time) soon to be released footage of Tyre Nichols’ arrest and beating. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had to listen. Ms. King was only 7 when her father was brutally beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers, and yesterday she stated that “the only difference between now and then is hashtags and clearer videos.” My mind started racing.
In an instant, I realized the complexity of what I was watching.
The five police officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr., were part of the Scorpion Unit – an acronym for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods”. Ironic? The unit was created in 2021 to patrol areas of high crime in the city. Less than 80 yards away from his home, handcuffed, physically restrained, and yelling for his mom, how, exactly, was Tyre involved in “high crime”?
So now, we must address the elephant in the room. The five officers involved in this beating, and subsequent murder, were black men. I have to inject a family question at this point… and it’s simply two words. HOW, SWAY??
I’ll tell you how. The American Psychological Association defines Institutionalized Racism as the differential treatment of individuals on the basis of their racial group by religious organizations, governments, businesses, the media, educational institutions, and other large social entities… [including] legal statutes that restrict the civil liberties of the members of specific racial categories. In my doctoral studies on leadership, one of the keystones embedded in an organization is the mindset of its leaders. This mindset, through policies, standard operating procedures, rewards, and punishment, is what serves to create the culture of an organization. THIS is how, black cops can don the coat of the oppressor and become the very thing they claim to fight against. When the very culture of the police environment marginalizes the value of “black” life, it doesn’t matter what the officers look like. Having power isn’t inherently evil… how you use it just shows who you are.
Shortly before I walked into that news broadcast, I came across a video on TikTok where Alexus Grace was discussing how her professor tackled a question regarding Dr. Martin Luther King. One of the things that stuck with me the most was when she quoted her professor as saying, “If you don’t know your formative narrative, you will adopt someone else’s story where the heroes look like them and the villain looks like you.” Humanity is being lied to every day, regardless of what side of the coin you tend to fall on. Propaganda is part and parcel of oppression! Programming is inherent in propaganda. When you see, hear, and feel something enough, it becomes a part of you. And this is how black cops can beat a defenseless man to death. They adopted the narrative of what the villain looks like. It didn’t matter that he was handcuffed. They ascertained that physical restraint was necessary. As was tasing him. And spraying him multiple times in the face with pepper spray. And punching him in the face so hard his head rocked while being held by other officers. And kicking him in the face and body while he lay on the ground. But, in all fairness… They did warn him that they would “baton the fuck out of [him]” if he didn’t give them his hands… even though the officers were holding them.
There has been an outpouring of support for Tyre and his family from the general public, as well as an outcry of pain from black men. In a conversation with Timothy Cross, a musician and author from Dallas, his thoughts on the matter were gut-wrenching. “It’s a sad state of affairs. I no longer feel like I belong here. We get hatred and disdain from everywhere… Women hate us, corporate hates us, cops want to kill us. Nobody likes us, not even black men…My heart is broken.” Artists and creatives have used their craft as a kind of catharsis, a way to tell the story and share their own grief. One such artist is John-Paul Moore of JP Designs Art who recently shared his piece called, simply, “Justice For Tyre”.
Healing from this, like other incidents of police violence, will take time. Time, patience, love, empathy, and compassion. But the first step is actually to discuss those hard points. Those difficult questions. And address the elephant in the room.
The “devil” isn’t always “white”. Sometimes, the devil looks like you.