On Friday, Memphis officials released video footage from the traffic stop that resulted in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this month. It is a horrific video to watch. Police officers beating, kicking, tasing, and billy-clubbing a defenseless young man on the ground who posed no threat to them to death. There is no excuse nor defense for what the police officers did to that man. All five officers have been charged with second degree murder among other charges, and will most likely, and rightfully be convicted.
But the reaction to the video represents much of what is harming the black community where everything is framed through the lens of race, even when it is obvious that there is no racial component. Democrat Congressman Mondaire Jones tried to blame Republicans and racism for black police officers beating a black man to death when he tweeted, “If you think the Memphis police officers had to be white in order to exhibit anti-Blackness, you need to take that AP African American Studies course Ron DeSantis just banned." One of Jones’ colleagues on Capitol Hill, Congressman Maxwell Frost agreed with him when he tweeted, "Doesn’t matter what color those police officers are. The murder of Tyre Nichols is anti-Black and the result of white supremacy."
We have been told for years that black people can’t be racist, but now these five black men are being called “white supremacists”? How does that work? If these five black police officers, had pulled a white motorist out of his car and beat him to death for no reason, we would not be allowed to call that a hate crime because black people cannot be racist. But when they do it to a black man, the five black men who can’t be racist suddenly become racist white supremacists? Can someone explain how that works? So, if black people suddenly become racist when they victimize another black person, why aren’t any of the murders of black people at the hands of other black people that occur on a regular basis in this country ever considered a hate crime? Maybe these two Congressmen who most likely took too many AP African American studies courses can explain.
MSNBC contributor and legal analyst Paul Butler placed the blame squarely on Republicans when he said, “It’s the Republicans in Congress who have stood in the way of passing legislation that would make a difference and prevent more tragic cases like this one."Completely misrepresenting the fact that it was the Democrats who blocked Republican Senator Tim Scott’s police reform bill, the "Justice Act." So, the message is clear, blame white people for the actions of black people. And that message permeates every part of black society. Black police officers kill a black man, it’s the fault of white supremacy. A black man doesn’t get a job, it’s because of white racism. A black student fails a math test because math is racist. A white person gets promoted ahead of a black person; it is an example of white privilege. Racism is a built-in excuse for every failure.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked Paul Butler, "Is that what this is, a culture problem that’s bigger than necessarily just the race of the officers?" Butler responded, "It’s 100% a culture problem. Old school policing lore says if a guy tries to run when officers want to arrest him, he pays for it.” So, these black police officers will get convicted, but really, they, too, are the victims of the white supremacist culture in American policing that was imposed onto them, so they could not help doing what they did, but will pay for it anyway.
But, if we are now allowed to look at the culture in which people live as the reason for bad behavior, can we look at the culture in the black community as a reason why many of those communities are being destroyed by crime and violence? In 2022, in Chicago alone, there were over 600 people shot and killed, most them were black. Where was the outrage for all of those deaths. I’m not trying to diminish the tragedy of Tyre Nichols’ death by bringing up crimes statistics, but doesn’t the overwhelming outrage and the protests at his death diminish the tragedy of those 600 peoples’ deaths which did not elicit even the slightest outrage? Why are some peoples’ death considered tragic by the population as a whole while others are completely ignored? What does it say about the culture in which they live when black people killing black people not only goes unnoticed, but is accepted?
Take the uniforms off those five police officers and no one would bat an eye, if they beat Tyre Nichols to death. If these five police officers were not police officers, his death would not be a story, and no one who is commenting on it right now would devote even one sentence to his murder. There would be no public outrage if it were just five black guys from Memphis who beat another black guy to death. How do I know? 8,000 black people are killed by other black people every year, and the overwhelming majority of them go unnoticed; there is no outrage, and there are no protests. This is one of the very few incidents that black people killing a black person is even brought to the public’s consciousness.
But this isn’t black on black murder, someone may argue. This is blue on black murder. There is a big difference. And there is also a danger to overreacting to blue on black murder. The extreme reaction to George Floyd’s death in the end caused thousands of more people, primarily black people, to be killed because the overreaction solution to the crime in Minneapolis was to defund the police which allowed violent crime and murder to increase by 40%.
Why can’t we look at this crime for what it is – five evil cops killing an innocent man. That’s it. Why is it necessary to inject race into this when race is not a factor? There are people of all races who are killed every day whose deaths go unnoticed, who no one in power gives a damn about, who no one cares enough to try to stop, whether their deaths are a result from the rising violent crime in our cities or the fentanyl crisis. Too many people are dying and too little is being done about it. Yet, the country comes to a screeching halt and riots break out in response to the death of Tyre Nichols but all those other deaths that go unnoticed are equally tragic and preventable. So, the extreme reaction to his death does nothing to assuage the grief that other families are experiencing from the senseless deaths of their loved one and will not do anything to prevent other such deaths from happening to other families.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.