Folks have been asking me how I make sense of the truth that all 5 of the Memphis cops who beat Tyre Nichols to dying in that heinous assault have been Black. Does that imply the assault was not racist? Does it negate race as an element within the crime altogether? Has the motion for Black lives been flawed to essentialize race in police brutality? Or was this horrific incident merely an exception to the fact that racism stays endemic in policing and felony justice?
Earlier than attempting to deal with a few of these questions, I need to specific my deep condolences for Tyre’s household. My coronary heart aches once I consider one other mindless homicide by the fingers of the state.
After I realized of the races of the cops who killed Tyre, I used to be mildly stunned to see that they have been all Black. It’s true that the officer who initially pulled Tyre out of his automotive and tasered him as he ran for his life was white (and it additionally makes me marvel why the police division tried to hide the id of the white officer, however that’s a subject for an additional time). However the cops who later captured and killed Tyre in these stunning movies have been all Black.
There have after all been many different incidents of police brutality involving Black officers prior to now. For example, three of the six officers charged in Freddie Grey’s dying in Baltimore have been Black. One of many 4 cops convicted within the homicide of George Floyd was Black. However in that case he was not the one who had his knee on George’s neck, inflicting him to suffocate. And in reality, the household of that officer says one of many causes he grew to become a cop was as a result of he felt variety might repair the police division’s racism.
However within the case of Tyre Nichols, not solely have been all 5 of the officers Black, however every had actively participated in that vicious and relentless assault on their younger sufferer. They didn’t simply carelessly toss Tyre at the back of a police van like within the case of Freddie Grey. They took turns delivering blows with their batons, shouting insults, knocking him to the bottom, kicking him, and utilizing pepper spray and tasers.
In some way I doubt any of them joined the police drive to repair it.
It complicates a story that too many people have adopted: that the important thing to countering racism in our establishments (policing and elsewhere) is just to diversify. This was, in truth, one of many central suggestions of the Kerner report issued greater than half a century in the past following the civil unrest over the summer time of 1967.
Lately, and notably within the wake of George Floyd’s killing, we’ve seen main efforts by corporations, universities, and authorities businesses to include ideas of variety, fairness, and inclusion. In some methods, this opened the door for a notion to permeate that white equals dangerous, and Black equals good. Two years in the past, former CIA Director John Brennan even mused on MSNBC that he was turning into more and more embarrassed to be a white male. Anybody who has served as head of the CIA in all probability has so much to be embarrassed about. However being a white male shouldn’t be a kind of issues.
I’m not saying that variety is a nasty factor. Range is vital. Nevertheless it’s not illustration. It’s not accountability. And, by itself, it’s not the answer to structural racialization in America. It’s just one ingredient within the work to create belonging and transfer to a spot to dismantle the racial caste system of othering.
The truth that all 5 of the officers who killed Tyre have been Black bears little relevance whenever you perceive what occurred as a structural, not interpersonal, drawback. We simply put out a brand new explainer video that distills this level. When you may have establishments just like the police which are closely current in segregated Black neighborhoods, you may have a better chance of encounters with officers. If we deny the position of racism in Tyre’s killing, it’s as a result of we’re taking a look at it from the lens of interpersonal racism. I don’t consider the police focused him due to a racial animus on their elements. However cops, no matter their colour, belong to a system that discriminates by race whereas incentivizing the overpolicing and underprotecting of the Black neighborhood. If the police occur to be Black, it really helps conceal the racist workings of the establishment.
The Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson presents a succinct approach of understanding how folks from a marginalized neighborhood would possibly work to perpetuate a system of hierarchy that hurts “their” neighborhood. In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, she writes: “The enforcers of caste are available each colour, creed, and gender. One doesn’t must be within the dominant caste (i.e., white) to do its bidding. In truth essentially the most potent instrument of the caste system is a sentinel at each rung, whose id forswears any accusation of discrimination and helps maintain the caste system buzzing.”
So, if we can’t depend on the race of the police to identify racism, what are some indicators of it? I consider you are able to do so by specializing in the remedy and frequency of these stopped by the police. Blacks should not solely extra more likely to be stopped but in addition extra possible than their white counterparts to be brutalized and killed. After all, nobody ought to be subjected to such remedy no matter race. It’s flawed. However it’s doubly flawed to be subjected to this dehumanizing remedy due to your id or social standing. It’s an expression of terror and institutional hate directed on the particular person and their neighborhood. While you and people you establish with are thought-about the opposite, you aren’t to be given the identical voice, remedy, or dignity of those that belong.
And as we shouldn’t be shocked to search out that there are some Blacks in positions of authority actively working to keep up the dehumanization of Blacks, we must always equally not be shocked to know that there are whites in authority working to advertise belonging and finish the ideology and observe of white dominance. That is each a disturbing and beneficiant learn on our society. And with that actuality in thoughts, we must always flip our deal with the extra vital query: What are we doing in our cities, workplaces, and faculties to remodel these darkish areas of dehumanization and othering into areas the place everybody belongs? Range is a vital step, but it surely’s not sufficient.
This text was initially printed on the Othering & Belonging Institute Weblog at UC Berkeley. Learn the unique article.