Our hearts are with Tyre Nichols’ family and the people of Memphis, Tennessee. A routine traffic stop by police officers should never lead to death; a child without their father, a mother without her son, a team without a coworker, a creative and cultural community without a burgeoning photographer and avid skateboarder. We invite you to support the family, and local community organizations who are grieving their loss and coming together to demand change.
Some have noted that the race of the officers who beat Tyre – all of whom are African American – make the injustice of this event “complicated.” What we must understand is that the race of an officer does not neutralize the structure of policing which often involve intensely scrutinizing places where Black people live, increasing the likelihood of disproportionate levels of traffic and pedestrian stops that then lead to increased fines, searches, court appearances and jail time and increased level of incarceration – when similar levels of offenses in whiter neighborhoods and suburbs often result in less frequent police interactions because there is less police presence, scrutiny and intervention.
Solutions to racialized outcomes in policing reside in structural interventions. john powell of Othering and Belonging Institute reminds us of this in his recent blog. We appreciate and uplift the work of allies in this space. The Center for Policing Equity is doing powerful and impactful work at the nexus of public safety and racial equity to ensure our public systems, “send the right resources to fix the right crisis.”
We acknowledge the Memphis police chief’s quick and swift response to disband the SCORPION unit. Yet, we visualize a world in which a SCORPION unit, and others like it, would not get the green light to exist in the first place.
Interrupting structural and institutional practices that contribute to racialized outcomes is needed across every department and line of business in government because race still plays a role in how people receive the protections and experience barriers to what they need from government. We stand with you as we work to remake our public institutions and systems into ones that deliver health, safety, and dignity for all communities. Remaking government is a long-haul effort requiring commitment and practice. It requires fortitude, perseverance, ingenuity, and resolve – even as our hearts are breaking.