Rashad Shabazz: Black police officers aren’t colorblind – they’re infected by the same anti-Black bias as American society and police in general
Once again, Americans are left reeling from the horror of video footage showing police brutalizing an unarmed Black man who later died.
Some details in the latest case of extreme police violence were gut-wrenchingly familiar: a police traffic stop of a Black male motorist turned violent. But, for many of us, other details were unfamiliar: The five police officers accused of using everything from pepper spray to a Taser, a police baton and intermittent kicks and punches against the motorist were also Black.
After pulling over 29-year-old Tyre Nichols for what they said was reckless driving, Black officers in the Memphis Police Department’s now disbanded SCORPION unit beat Nichols, ultimately to death.
Our surprise that five Black police officers could brutalize another Black man indicates we have an impoverished understanding of race and racism in this country.
What does Tyre Nichols’ death mean for calls to diversify policing?
For years, elected officials, activists and citizens have been making calls to reform policing. Many have said bringing more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds onto police forces would go a long way toward correcting institutional racism in the criminal justice system.
The final report of “The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” commissioned through an executive order by President Barack Obama, called for law enforcement agencies to “strive to create a workforce that encompasses a broad range of diversity, including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness.”
How does seeing video of another Black man brutalized by police, this time Black officers, affect Black people?
Over the past decade, videos of Black people killed at the hands of police officers have filled social media and news sites. I, for one, cannot watch them because they terrify me and amplify fears for my safety and that of my family and friends. I watched about 30 seconds of the Black police officers pummeling Nichols and couldn’t take any more. I know I’m not alone. Studies tell us that police killings of unarmed Black people are psychologically traumatizing events for Black people. This kind of horror should be traumatizing to the nation. But if Black is the sign of danger and criminality, who will have empathy for the Tyre Nicholses of the world?
For Congress to pass the George Floyd Act — which will eliminate or seriously restrict the doctrine of “qualified immunity” — will be a significant change, now held up by Republicans. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/opinion/qualified-immunity-police-brutality-misconduct.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article
Every word makes sense. I am not American and don’t live in the US, but feel that truth in my bones because it’s the only explanation. And with every little molecule of me I wish there were a solution. But to an outsider it seems as though the US is in a quagmire of such ginormous proportions that it seems almost impossible to scramble out and become a healthy nation. Then, again, where do we find a healthy nation?
Still, Trump especially allowed the vermin to scramble out from under newly upturned stones, and sanity is now being attacked on so many fronts, it seems impossible that healing can ocur.
I do pray for a country that had, once upon a time, all the possibilities to be a great nation.
Thank you, Rose Mary. I join you in prayer.
A thought-provoking essay.
Indeed. It’s clear that police departments across the country are failing to address the brutality of their officers.