"The war is over, we'll enter that sweet period where everyone agrees not to repeat the recent horrors. Of course, we're fickle stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows, maybe this time we'll learn." -- Suzanne Collins, "Mockingjay"
For the past six years as a professor at Rhodes College, I've done significant research and have lectured on the fractured relationship between Black communities and law enforcement. In listening to and learning from activists, pastors, educators, and citizens, a constant refrain has been shared: growing up Black in Memphis, it was widely known that if police officers had to chase you, they would violently beat you if they caught you.
Those words have been ringing in my head ever since I saw the video footage of Tyre Nichols' brutal murder at the hands of the Memphis Police Department.
A colleague recently shared a story about her college-aged brother and a family friend who ran away from police several years ago. While her brother was able to escape, the friend who was caught was asked to name his accomplice. When he refused, the officer hit him so hard that he experienced unimaginable pain.
More:Memphis Police Association addresses Tyre Nichols, says it is 'committed to justice'
Hear more Tennessee Voices: Get the weekly opinion newsletter for insightful and thought provoking columns.
Policies change, but marginalized communities still suffer
As we are, once again, having a conversation about the grotesque brutality of law enforcement, do not fall for the lie that these actions were an aberration. To believe this would negate the legacy of Black Memphians who have suffered for decades at the hands of a system that was designed to be the violent enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy and the oppression of marginalized communities.
Already, the rhetoric surrounding this event is that this encounter was outside the formal policies of the Memphis Police Department. However, policing is first and foremost a subculture.
Policies, best practices, protocols, etc., mean nothing in the face of a force that feels justified in brutally punishing even the most minimal (or nonexistent) lack of compliance. Eric Garner was murdered in New York City by a chokehold administered by Officer Daniel Pantaleo-21 years after chokeholds had been banned by the NYPD. And yet, Pantaleo initially held on to his job and has never been indicted.
Will we learn this time from this tragedy?
Tyre Nichols may have been murdered by five officers, but he was the victim of a brutal system.
Much commentary has been offered on the quickness with which the Memphis Police Department fired the five officers responsible for Nichols' murder.
However, always remember that a plane in danger of crashing will jettison cargo to save the plane. Those five officers will be punished, promises will be made, and then we will move on with business as usual, satisfied that we survived this incident, leaving the inherent, racist violence of law enforcement untouched and intact.
If we follow the well-worn path of moral posturing, empty promises, and impotent reforms, then - as I wrote in a guest opinion column in the wake of George Floyd's murder, we will be revisiting these same conversations when another incident of police brutality occurs in the future. Although who knows, maybe this time we'll learn.
Dr. Duane T. Loynes Sr. is an assistant professor of urban studies and Africana studies and associate director of equity & culture (Institute for Health Equity & Community Justice) at Rhodes College.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Tyre Nichols video: Death in Memphis brutal and sadly quite normal
The Vandals(2023-01-31 06:41:24Z)
This video of Tyre Nichols is an incredibly powerful and heartbreaking reminder of how normal violence against Black people has become in this country. As a society, we must acknowledge and confront this injustice before we can make any meaningful progress toward equity. This video serves as a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to create a more just and equitable world.REPLY