It’s been over a week since Tyre Nichols was funeralized after his brutal murder at the hands of members of a special team of Memphis police: The Scorpion Unit.
Five members of the Scorpion unit charged with second-degree murder, amongst other charges, were recruited for their aggression-prone tendencies. There are many similar units around the country, organized to patrol and punish areas of “high crime”; a situation rife with tension between the police and community members.
You would think that some basic humanity inform the baseline of behavior by modern, trained police, but even that low bar was absent during the Tyre Nichols killing encounter.
The inhumane treatment of Mr. Nichols was so severe that he was unrecognizable from his hospital bed where he succumbed from the “stomping” at the end of the feet, hands and batons of five rogue police.
And what about the fact that the five officers that we witness stomping, beating, and killing Nichols, a Black man, are themselves Black?
Many have said they were more “Blue” (the uniform color of police) than Black; that they are not, in fact, not Black enough.
Yes, but should we expect more from Black officers than from nonBlack officers?
Let’s be clear: Officer friendly does not exist, and, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we’re not in Kansas anymore. No, we have been swept up in a tornado with swirling winds of outrage. The lives of Black men have once again been relegated to a flimsy basement of American existence.
Black men are an endangered species, and we are eating our own! Recall that once, there was a well-developed strategy to keep enslaved folk in line by using other enslaved persons to wield the whip and encouraging the use of other forms of brute punishment. The rewards? Perhaps more meat, a softer bed, a lighter workload, a (perceived) more favored status.
We created a set of labels for that kind; some of the words are still in use today, none of them kind.
Obviously, that strategy has never gone out of use by higher authorities, yet our expectations are still hopeful. We have never lessened our hope for getting treated more humanely, by police in general, but most especially, by Black police.
But, once again, we have been failed. Failed by the larger system, and more hurtfully by our own.
My heart is broken.
Let’s be clear about something else: Black folk want good policing in our communities. It is a fragile and thin line to walk; not for the faint of heart. It calls for compassion, love, and respect for the lives of all Black folk in the community, i.e., the marginal, dispossessed, underemployed, mentally ill, alcohol and drug addicted, schoolage children, retired persons, preachers, teachers, undertakers, et al.
Yet, the recruits invited to police us are turning out to be thugs: white, brown and Black police officers who do not love us, and who perpetrate violence against us.
We cannot be distracted. We must continue to look at all the cameras depicting brutality; see the undeniably telling murders: not just the five uniformed people who actually killed Tyre, but all the other uniformed personnel just idly standing by, the EMTs who dithered in rendering medical aid, supervisors, municipal policymakers, and those who directly and indirectly contributed to Mr. Nichols’s death.
What has happened to us over the succeeding century and a half since our emancipation in 1863?
Do we become less compassionate as we become more American? Have we traded in some core values in exchange for some pay out for being closer to the “establishment” standard? Have we settled for a little bit more meat on our plates in exchange for demeaning one another, denigrating our brothers and sisters, dismissing our mothers’ pain?
I cannot accept the current mentality of Black folk who cloak themselves in “uniforms” of the mainstream if it requires them to stomp on their own self-respect, to leave their humanity at home, or to simply squash basic decency.
In exchange for what? Inflated egos worn on gun belts? Artiﬁcial armors of batons, bear spray, storm trooper boots, handcuffs, and seldom-used cameras? Shaky moral guidelines?
Scorpion has been disbanded, but what are the alternatives to policing our communities? There must be a return to community policing. We must enlist and engage folk who live in areas which need good policing to inform policy-makers about what they need. And we must hold folk accountable for any/all their actions which betray community trust.
Elect and replace representatives who are responsive to the needs of people. VOTE. Vote. Vote. Toniwg1@gmail.com