Once again, America has a front-row seat to a familiar old film: Violent policing of African American men. And once again, I am angry. I’m sad. Once again, like many others, I am horrified.
This time feels different, though. This time, I feel a sense of shame that wasn’t so much a part of previous incidences of police brutality against Black men.This time, the cops are Black. This was most horrible of horror films…the one where the killer is inside the house.
As a Black woman, wife and mother, I know what to say and feel when white cops kill our men. I have felt the rage and the outrage while trying to reckon with another senseless killing of another Black person. I have affirmed the fact and the need to say that Black lives matter.
But how should I feel when a Black life doesn’t matter to the people they should matter to the most?
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The answer to that question, for me, is that I feel shame.
I feel shame that the connectedness that should have disallowed multiple Black law officers to beat a Black man to death failed. I feel shame that five Black minds and five sets of Black eyes were unable to imagine or to see that Tyre Nichols might have been their son or their brother.
In my dreams, the policemen would have talked to Tyre, brother-to-brother. If a crime was committed, they would have done their jobs and arrested him, but with a verbal chastisement to get his act together before he ruined his life.
How is it possible for five Black police officers to have lived through the last several years, to have witnessed the tears of Black mothers and fathers, to have seen the protests and demands for change and for justice and then to act as those we’ve raged against?
And perhaps the biggest shame for me is that white folks get to see what Black folks did to Black folks. Whites protesters who marched with us shouting “Black lives matter” must feel deep disappointment. Those who scoffed at the slogan get to say, “I told you so.”
We’ve gotten used to seeing crime on the nightly news where Black gang members with guns kill other Black gang members, usually over drugs. Psychologically, we’re able to remove ourselves from “those sad crimes” since we are law-abiding and upright people. We distance ourselves and our race from such crimes as other races do when their members commit mass killings or family murders. And like other races, we demand that we not be judged by the worst of our race.
But what do we say after watching what should have been five of our best Black men viciously assault and kill another black man? What do we feel after five Black policemen showed the world just how little a Black life mattered?
I say that I feel ashamed.