The brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by at least five officers played out on a video for the world to see on Friday night January 27, 2023. I grieved deeply for Mrs. RowVaughn Wells and all the many mothers and fathers whose loved ones have been brutally beaten or murdered by the police – the people we pay to protect us. For about 65 years, for as long as I’ve been in the ministry, police misconduct has been at the top of my agenda. But even before I was an adult and, in the ministry, it was a known fact, a given, in the communities that police were always on the prowl to round up Black men especially or even youth for a beating in the precincts.
I had a friend, I can see his face now, a gentle soul, one night the police accused him of a crime, took him to the precinct. The next time I saw him was in an institution, he was staring out the window, never saying a word. They had literally beat the senses out of him. One horrendous case I remember was the death of Peter Funches, he was 100% disabled Vietnam Vet. One day, he got in his car, drove up to the Bronx, all the while his wife was calling for help. He was found beaten to death. The police said he died from ramming his car into a cement wall.
At the time, we, the National Black United Front, had a special committee we called Police Brutality Investigation Unit (PBIU). It was headed by the late David Walker. We took photos of the car, there was no crash. We had photos of Mr. Funches shown with his bruised face and a scarred head. Moreover, I held a press conference and showed the photo and argued that this man died from a beating and not from a bruised car, in addition, we had witnesses who testified that they saw Mr. Funches being beaten.
My point is that no one in my generation or in the movement against police brutality should be surprised by the beating to which Tyre was subjected. The only difference is now we have the technology that allows us to see the actual act happening. I hope that Americans will feel not only sadness, but I hope Americans will feel guilty. For in these cases of police brutality and murder, no matter how obvious the evidence, the jury have always exonerated the police.
Therefore, the American public from which the jury pools comes are guilty of delivering a message to these policemen, you can do what you please to people of African Ancestry and you will not be charged with a crime, in fact you might even get promoted.
As was the case with Bernard Placide in Englewood, NJ. A police officer shot him to death in his own home. That police officer was promoted or as the Mayor said, “reassigned”. Whichever way, what it means instead of the officer being removed from duty at least until the investigation is completed. Surely, the Mayor knew and as all Americans should know, that if the officer was out on leave until the investigation is completed, the investigation may take months or even years to complete. And that would be too much punishment for the killer cops.
Mrs. Wells, how hopeful she was/is believing that her son’s death will mark changes in America. She even prayed for everyone including the police officers who killed her son. I think I’m far within the mark to say, we hope and we struggle to bring about changes. What the savage beating of Tyre and the swift wheels of justice rolled in charging these Black officers with murder, kidnapping, etc. I emphasize Black officers for the usual reaction is nothing will be done to the officers no matter how brutal the beating or how openly the unnecessary shooting. The position of the police, the elected officials and white generally was that the officers were innocent until proven guilty. Therefore nothing can be done until there was an investigation. And as I’ve stated, the investigation can take forever. In the meanwhile, the officers would continue in their jobs as usual or the worst could happen is they would be placed on desk duty. Their pay and pensions and whatever benefits they are supposed to receive would be intact.
The swift move of the police and the prosecutor in Tyre’s case is a “blueprint for going forward”. A quote made by Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family made at a press conference in Memphis. Never again can they claim policemen in clear cases of brutality, in clear cases of guilt, of abuse of power, and of murder cannot be fired or out of indefinite leaves or until an investigation is completed.There will always be a reference to look what happened to the officers in the Tyre Nichols case.
I also agree with Mrs. Wells that we should pray and forgive everybody, even the officers that killed her son. I may take a different view about the expression of love than Mrs. Wells, I reckon and most Christian people, I believe you surely love the victim of crimes, you love them and support them anyway you can. And I believe that you love the victimizer with tough love. That is to say by stopping the victimizers actions, which subjects the victims to abuse or pain and you have to use different methods to convince the victimizer, his actions are wrong. I believe in the love that a parent exercises against the child who has violated the family’s rules, some form of tough love is exercised to bring the child to see and to cease doing those things that brings harm to others.
And I hope with Mrs. Wells that somehow good will come of it. Again, I believe that you do something to bring about the change that you want to see. I know that there are times when God says, “I’ll fight this battle and we are told to watch and see God’s action. But most of the time, in my experience, God helps us and shows us how to do the right thing. Hence, I hope that all who are grieving will let their tears be the fuel that would move them to act.
One word more on the question of racism. There were many who found it difficult to believe that the officers who did this terrible thing to Tyre were black. They don’t understand racism. Racism is like a disease, live COVID-19 it infects everyone. People in power who subject or enslave or exploit others attempt to substantiate their positions of power and superiority while making their victims to feel inferior. Malcolm X, the greatest crime the white man committed was teaching us to hate ourselves.” To prevent being infected by racism we have to take certain medicines, like education, particularly the study of history and other subjects. The constant awareness of what is going on around us and also the study of one’s self and one’s behavior. For there is constant attempt by the racist or the enslaver to saturate and to suffuse all of his institutions, systems, customs, traditions, mores to again sustain the superiority and power and to perpetuate inferiority in the victims. Therefore it’s no wonder you have black folks, who act like white folks. Who have become so identified with Euro Ethnic that they will do whatever they see Euro Ethnics do. So we just ever be on our guard so we don’t become infected with the disease of racism and act think like the racist. It is absolutely necessary for us to stay vigilant so that we don’t become infected with the disease of racism and act and think like the racist – like the Black cops who brutalized Tyre Nichols or unless conspicuous and brutal ways.