Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of Memphis police is America’s shame


The spectacle of a televised countdown to the showing of the video in which Tyre Nichols was savagely beaten by Memphis, Tennessee, police officers doesn’t just theatricalize Black death; it is a damning indictment of American perversion.

It was horrific, as promised, but unfortunately not singularly so. It was instead yet another data point in a long line of videos showing the torturing of Black bodies by police. It was more snuff porn with Black victims in a country becoming desensitized to the violence because of its sheer volume.

America — and the world — had the realization that police violence was a problem, and then it simply walked away before the work was done and the war was won.

After the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and the historic summer of protest that followed, police killings of American citizens didn’t decrease; they increased. What fell away were the evanescent allies, poll-chasing politicians and cooped-up COVID kids who had used the protests as an opportunity to congregate.

Even Black people’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement eventually began to fall.

And as Americans shifted to other priorities such as politics and the economy, the broader public became desensitized to police killings, or it callously started to see the police killings as unfortunate but ultimately acceptable byproducts of much-needed increased policing at a time of rising crime.

To break through, a killing would have to be truly gruesome and barbaric, the circumstances around it truly ghoulish and the victim of it truly unassailable.

That case has now arrived with the death of Nichols, a Black man, after his horrific beating at the hands of five Black Memphis police officers.

Authorities moved relatively quickly to fire, arrest and aggressively charge the officers.

But instead of leaping to my feet to applaud a system working as it should, rather than as it was designed, I am stuck on the fact that there should have been federal legislation to prevent such killings.

But there wasn’t, and there isn’t, because America has once again failed Black people who were pleading for help and demanding it.


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