We join the people of Memphis, Tenn., and millions of others across the United States and the world, in bearing witness to the brutal beating death of Tyre Nichols by five now-former police officers. Once again, a horrific disregard for human life has been captured on video. Once again, a family, community and city are left to navigate the profound grief and trauma caused by these events.
It is a fact that Black and Brown people are disproportionately killed by police. Real justice for Mr. Nichols’ murder will be impossible until we address the disregard for the value of Black lives – rooted in white supremacy and steeped in a false sense of racial hierarchy – that enabled both the unlawful traffic stop that resulted in his death and the savage beating that killed him.
To be clear, none of us, including law enforcement, are immune to white supremacy. Implicit biases based on race or skin color are often at the root of negative or violent encounters at all levels of our society. The impulses associated with bias fueled by the internalized dictates of white supremacy can lead us to make unfair assumptions about people even when they share our personal identity and background. The implicit bias we carry as individuals combines with systemic factors to shape the ways in which we live and work.
This is a moment to call for change and solidarity with Black communities who are plagued by pain, fear and exhaustion. It is notable that the five Black former officers in Memphis were arrested and indicted within weeks of the incident when similar cases elsewhere have taken many months. While this investigation is ongoing, and additional individuals may also be held accountable, we must insist that it is universally unacceptable to die at the hands of police. The speed of investigation in this case should be the norm for all brutality-focused charges without regard for the race or background of the perpetrators or victims.
Mr. Nichols was a son, work colleague, friend and father. His murder should compel each one of us – whether we’re White or Black, Latino, Indigenous or Asian; work in a bank, bakery or a police station –to acknowledge the stew of racism we swim in every day and the role it plays in how we perceive the world, consciously or not. May this moment push us to build relationships across our differences and honor our common humanity.
We must demand justice for Mr. Nichols and work to transform the collective attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and systems that led to the tragic loss of his life and so many others.