I listened intently this morning as Attorney Ben Crump described the disposition of Tyre Nichols’ mother after his beating death at the hands of five Memphis cops. “She believes her son was sent here on a mission from God.” Crump lamented, “She has to believe this in order to cope with what happened to her son.” Crump went on the point out that this case demonstrates that it isn’t the race of the police that were involved (the five police officers were Black) but rather the race of the detained that indicates as to whether police brutality will follow. The beating death of Tyre demonstrates that police reform is needed across America. This is a systemic problem that must be addressed. It is a policing system that is informed more by control and violence than serving and protecting, that informed the actions of these five Memphis police officers and countless others across America. The treatment of Black men by police in America has been a topic of national concern and widespread protests in recent years. The issue stems from a long history of systemic racism and discrimination against Black people in the country, which has translated into unequal treatment by law enforcement.
Black men are disproportionately stopped, searched, and arrested by police compared to their white counterparts. They are also more likely to be subjected to excessive force and deadly encounters with the police. This unequal treatment is rooted in implicit biases and stereotypes that view Black men as dangerous and criminal. As a result, Black men are often seen as a threat and treated with suspicion, even when they have not committed a crime.
Moreover, Black men are more likely to be incarcerated and serve longer sentences for the same crimes as white men. The criminal justice system has been criticized for being biased against Black people, leading to a disproportionate number of Black men being incarcerated. This not only perpetuates the cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities in Black communities, but it also contributes to the marginalization of Black men in society.
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and numerous other Black men and women at the hands of police officers have sparked nationwide protests and calls for reform. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought attention to the issue of police brutality and the need for systemic change in the criminal justice system.
There have been some efforts to address the issue of unequal treatment of Black men by police in America. Body-worn cameras, community policing, and implicit bias training for police officers are some of the measures that have been implemented in an effort to increase accountability and reduce the use of excessive force. However, these measures alone are not enough to solve the problem.
There is a need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of racial inequality in America, including poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education and healthcare. Providing economic opportunities, addressing poverty, and improving the quality of education in Black communities can help reduce the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on Black men.
The treatment of Black men by police in America is a complex and deeply ingrained issue that requires systemic change. Addressing implicit biases and providing accountability through measures such as body-worn cameras is important, but it is not enough. Addressing the root causes of racial inequality and ensuring economic opportunities for all is crucial in creating a more just and equal society. Until these issues are addressed, Black men will continue to be unfairly targeted and mistreated by the police.
In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, I penned my “letter to Roy” which continues to receive views and shares. In it I explore my own complicity in perpetuating a system of white privilege. Although my post was clumsy in some places, in came from an authentic place of reckoning within myself. A recognition that until we are willing to acknowledge that there is a problem, we shouldn’t expect anything to change. All of us must acknowledge that there is a systemic problem with policing in American that impacts Black men, women, and people of color in a way that doesn’t impact white people. Change starts with us.
By all accounts, Tyre Nichols was a beautiful soul who loved sunsets, photography, and skateboarding. A soul that was needlessly taken from the world too soon. I hope that his death will result in changes to policing that America so desperately needs. Before any other lives are lost.
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