Street surveillance video captured the savage beating death of a young black man, Tyre Nichols, by five black cops earlier this month in Memphis, Tennessee. The young black man had tried to flee from the police after they had stopped him for alleged reckless driving, but the information that we have thus far indicates that he posed no serious physical threat to them.
And while I don’t disagree with most of her arguments — she correctly cites some of the smaller factors as to “why Memphis is different” — there is a glaring omission in her piece.
… But as Friday night [the night of the day that the police videos of the killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols were released] unfolded, the protests remained peaceful; news reports showed Americans in various cities righteously and nonviolently demanding justice. We have witnessed many peaceful protests in response to police violence before, but there was one noticeable difference this time around: Rollout of the video footage seemed highly choreographed.
By the time protesters were chanting in the streets, the five officers who had beaten Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, had already been charged with second-degree murder. By the time the video footage of the attack was released, the anger and dismay had already been predicted; law-enforcement and political leaders had issued statements preparing the public for some of the worst police violence this nation has seen. The Memphis police chief likened Nichols’s beating to that of Rodney King in 1991. These officials were right: The footage was brutal, at times unbearable, with Nichols appearing not to resist the officers as they repeatedly struck him. All of this reveals the sad fact that, because of the sheer number of times Americans have now confronted videos of police officers killing Black citizens, public officials have gotten better at managing the shock. …
Again, I agree with most of this, and I agree with Kayyem’s assertion that “the quick firing of the five police officers involved, even before criminal charges were filed, and before the videos were made public … rarely happens, but it is the correct response when the facts are impossible to defend.”
But what Kayyem and others who are “woke” don’t want to talk about is that in today’s “woke” sociopolitical environment, the race of the cop or cops is what matters most when a black person is killed by a cop or cops.
Indeed, take the seminal case of Michael Brown.
The blatant lie quickly spread that in August 2014, young black man Michael Brown had just been walking in his neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri, minding his own business, when a white cop accosted Brown only because of Brown’s race.
The big lie was that Brown put his hands up in surrender, and the white cop just shot him anyway — because Brown was black.*
The Eric Holder U.S. Department of Justice report on the Michael Brown case, which was released in March 2015, tells a whole different story: “Gentle giant” Michael Brown, in actuality, had stolen cigarillos from a storekeeper and also had physically roughed up the storekeeper (this was caught on the store’s surveillance camera).
It was these criminal actions of Brown that drew the police presence to him in the first place.
When the cop — who was (and probably still is…) white — responded to the report of a black male who had stolen cigarillos and saw Brown walking with cigarillos in his hand, he then of course confronted Brown.
Brown responded not by cooperating with the cop — but by trying to take the cop’s gun from him. (Because that always ends well…) And that is why Brown was shot to death by the white cop.
These actual events are quite a different story from the “Hands up — don’t shoot!” myth and meme that immediately came out of the Brown episode. (Repeat a lie early and often, and it easily can become “history.”)
Why do I rehash the myth of Michael Brown?
To prove a point: It was so fucking important to the black community of Ferguson and elsewhere within the United States to turn the Brown case into yet another “example” of white-on-black persecution that the fucking facts of what actually had happened on that fateful day that Michael Brown, who was 18 years old, made a series of poor decisions that ultimately led to his own death, were wholly dispensable.
Making Michael Brown a proxy-martyr in the war between whites and blacks trumped all else.
Tyre Nichols’ death is much more horrific than Brown’s. Why? Because while Nichols had the shit beaten out of him by five cops, there is no report or evidence that Nichols did anything like Brown did, such as to try to relieve a police officer of his gun. If I tried to relieve a cop of his or her gun, I wouldn’t expect it to end well. I wouldn’t expect, however, to be beaten to death by five cops when I posed no actual serious harm to them.
So why no rioting, looting, vandalism, etc. in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death?
Easy answer: Because the five cops who participated in his death are all black. (And also, of course, because the police chief of Memphis is a black woman.)
Nichols’ death by cop doesn’t have the crucial element in it for “woke”sters to be able to exploit it: white cop(s) kill(s) black man.
If just one of the five cops who participated in Nichols’ slow murder had been white, I’m pretty sure that the outcome would have been different.
And that’s because of racism.
Yup — when it’s not what one does, but when it’s what one’s race is, that matters, there is a word for that: racism.
A white cop shoots a black man to death right as the black man is trying to take the cop’s gun away from him: We must act out on that!
Five black cops slowly kill a black man by beating him savagely. Well, the cops were black… We’re not going to act out on that…
Not just to pick on black Americans: Two older Asian men (not the usual suspects) recently committed two separate mass shootings of mostly Asian individuals in California. Eighteen people were killed in the two mass shootings, some of them Latino, but most of them Asian.
Has the Asian American community expressed outrage over these mass killings? No — because they were committed by members of their own racial group.
Hey, don’t fucking attack me for stating what is obvious but unpleasant; instead, ask why all that we really care about in these killings is the race of the perpetrators.
Ask why we turn interracial killings into proxy battles in our ongoing “woke” race wars — and why we so easily shrug off intraracial killings. Ask why we think that it’s A-OK to be killed by a member of our own race, but that it’s an unfathomable injustice to be killed by a member of another race.
This is the central problem that I have with “woke”-ism: It used to be that, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, the ideal sociopolitical situation is that we’re all judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. (And I’d include our conduct as a part of our character, as our character — or lack thereof — dictates our conduct.)
Under “woke”-ism, the snake is devouring its own tail; under “woke”-ism, things have gone so ridiculously far that things have returned to what we were trying to avoid in the first place: in today’s “woke” sociopolitical environment, it’s not character or conduct that matters — it’s only race that matters.
This was something that we’d more or less collectively decided decades ago is wrong — yet incredibly dystopianly, it’s A-OK today.
P.S. No, I haven’t forgotten George Floyd. As I wrote at the time of his murder, he was murdered by a cop — a white cop (to the extent that that matters, and in this case it more likely than not matters to some degree) — and I supported the protestors, even when some of their tactics would be deemed by “polite” society to be “extreme.” (This is not to say that I agree with everything that every protestor or “protestor” did anywhere in the nation using George Floyd’s murder as the pretext.)
I long have believed that you have to take every killing of a civilian by a police officer on a case-by-case basis, based upon the facts (as best as we can ascertain them; video surveillance certainly helps when it exists).
It’s mentally easier, I suppose, to just look at the race of those involved in each police incident, and make a snap judgment based primarily or even solely on the race(s) of the individuals involved. Which is, of course, racist.
*I don’t capitalize “black” or “white”; that’s another smug, “woke” contrivance, like “Latinx,” that I’m not on board with. Words aren’t actually magic, and we don’t actually help anyone merely by using magic words; we only feel more smug and sanctimonious when we use magic, “woke” words. (Virtue signaling is fun! Actually doing anything for anyone else is not!)