This Nation has been overwhelmed with tragedy and the continuous suffering from the history of what it chooses not to learn. Officers tased, pepper sprayed, and brutally beat 29 year-old Tyre Nichols during a January 7 traffic stop, according to the horrific video footage released by the city of Memphis on Friday. The footage, which comes from a SkyCop camera and officers’ body cameras, is split into four devastating videos. Police can be heard yelling at Nichols to get out of his car and forcibly removing him from the car.The video has been described by law enforcement and attorneys for Nichols’ family as, “absolutely appalling,” “alarming,” and “unconscionable.” It is my opinion that the Officers in Memphis and others who choose to use barbaric force do not adhere to the rational mindset of what service and dedication to a community looks like or should be. Empathy and moral ethics go hand and hand with being a humble, dignified community servant. Officers should not operate as a lynch mob, nor as judge, jury, and executioner. Officers who are supposed to uphold the law, should not be oppressors and definitely should not be operating with a gang mentality. If you aren’t interested in learning about and positively impacting the community you serve, this is simply not the line of work for you. The choice to take life in any way, shape, or form is egregious and horrific. We have seen it countless times, and it shatters the trust of the public time and time again.
The past few months I’ve worked on an initiative called, “The Empathy Project”. I’ve sat and listened and learned from three different families who have had their lives severely shattered by losing a loved one to murder. All three families sought justice for their loved ones and worked tirelessly with law enforcement to bring these murderers to justice. Those months for me, included eye opening meetings with law enforcement who do care about serving their community. I’ve seen officers comfort grieving families in these traumatic situations. In my personal life, I’ve seen some officers strive to work in fairness and in the principles of service and I’ve also witnessed the narcissistic ego trips that are the equivalent to giving a toddler a Ferrari. I can remember two years ago, here in Roanoke, during the George Floyd protest, there were some officers that were protesting with us, but there were also officers who were also smug and hurtful.
Tyre Nichols should still be here. As this situation unfolds, we see that another vast hole has been created, sucking life from us and feeding evil, corruption, and the lust for power. I can’t help but wonder what he and others like him could have been. Close your eyes and think about how much we truly take for granted in just getting to our next destination unharmed. Think about the fact that at the end of the day, we all have someone waiting for us. Life is a gift, and we should savor it. Some look at these situations as soundbites or opportunities to heighten careers, but at the end of the day, and after the cameras go to the next headline, there is still a family grieving someone very special lost to more senseless, egregious, and inhumane behavior that shouldn’t be happening anywhere.
The essential root of solving this problem is awareness. Sometimes I feel as if we are becoming so reactionary as a society that we can’t process or even fathom that there are solutions. I choose to acknowledge the challenges we face as a society but also keep believing in our betterment because there are people who genuinely care, even if there are others who are corrupt, jaded, and hateful. I genuinely believe that good and right can and will win out. We have to go beyond politics and start supporting all people instead of taking the easy way out by making accusations and generalizations. For any community to thrive, it is vital to have people who work to produce and preserve justice, love and genuine righteousness. Thurgood Marshall said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”