Tyre Nichols should be alive. We don't even have a good answer as to why he was stopped. But what I saw was disproportionate force on a compliant individual undertaken with what looked like enthusiasm. This video of police brutality was twice as long as the Rodney King video I saw so many years ago--and which then felt to me like watching an eternity of a human suffering--he lived. This is watching Black officers of the law behave unlawfully, keepers of order being without order. This feels like watching something primal and ritualistic.
I am not better for having seen it. It leaves me wondering what trapdoor in the human soul drops open in the midst of serving one's job that reveals a monster below--not for one depraved individual, but for a collective.
And what also breaks me is that he called for his mother--and yeah, I've heard that before too, and I, without kids by choice, hear that and I am suffering for that human, so close the last of his life calling out for she who was there for the first part of it. If I am so moved, what is it like for one who carried a child under their heart, and lived with a child in it, concerned for their every breath under the sun, until the time that breath was stolen?
I cannot imagine.
I can avoid, for now, the racist chorus who try to say there was nothing wrong, here, who saw the shooting of Mike Brown or the choking of Eric Garner or the nine-minute death of George Floyd as only police doing their job. People who would see the death of Tamir Rice as reasonable. But I know they exist and are justifying to themselves what happened, because they believe the ritualistic murder of Black bodies is a magic that preserves the peace--and it most certainly cannot and will not do that. It is not an example to anyone of the power of law and order when officers of the law are not lawful or orderly. It is a lie. And against a murderous lie, what else is there but survival?
And I know they condemn the protests too, as if they don't understand why people march or show up--it's because human lives matter. Black Lives Matter. They will look for little fires and altercations and ignore big discrepancies in the fairness and decency with which people who come into conflict with the law can be treated--and how that unfairness poisons everything else they try to do. How confronting tragedies like this honestly could make such a difference. They will not understand why humans are moved by a human death that didn't need to be. And I don't know how to teach decency to them.
Tyre Nichols just wanted to get home. I just want to drive a lesson home but I don't know where home is to the people who need to understand it. Do they need him to be White? Do they care about unjust deaths and obvious brutality at all? Or do they root for torture and death to expiate some notion of sin that exists like a taint, like some prehistoric people who can't be reached by an appeal to reason, let alone compassion, at all and need to see a scapegoat fallen, and the killers as priests rendering an unquestionable act?
To me, this was just a man trying to get home who was stricken by horror, human horror. I am sickened by it. And by whatever transformed those officers of the law into murder-minded monsters.
POSTSCRIPT: Thinking about slender, chronically ill Tyre Nichols and the ease with which he was thrown about reminds me of Elijah McClain and his sensitive, different self, and how he was tranquilized to death needlessly and am also reminded that cops don't understand disability, either. Why are the people charged with protecting and defending people so unaware of the variety, the frailty, of people?