January 28, 2023 Editor

State Terror: Tyre Nichols’s Death Is America’s Shame

Jan. 27, 2023
Charles M. Blow

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

image above: Protesters gather in NYC’s Union Square Friday night after footage of Tyre Nichols’ fatal police beating was released.

WN: The refrain “When will they ever learn?” gives way to: “When will they ever legislate change?” It goes deeper: America at government levels is hopelessly addicted to violence as a first resort. How does the country start over?–when since before the nation’s beginning, it was already deeply snared in its violent treatment of the Indigenous, the Blacks then soon enough the Mexicans, etc., etc., etc., ever since, ad nauseum.

I introduced an article posted in 2016, For Abolition: Prisons and Police Are More Than Brutality, They’re State Terror, with:

This is an incredibly powerful assessment of “state terror” in arguably the most oppressive democracy of recent times: the United States of America. The author’s analysis rings true at every turn: true to needing to step outside the “rigged system” (thanks Donald Trump) in America that is centuries old, that is designed like an iron-clad caste system to keep the masses (overwhelmingly non-white) in their place in perpetuity. The step outside like a good anthropologist, is the only way there is to even hope that from that vantage point one can cry out, “But the Empire has no clothes!” – is a complete sham, is Public/Planet Enemy Number One in the way it wages terror on all who would oppose it, who too often by virtue of colour alone from birth on are terrorized victims.

To read this article is to weep at the blatant injustices endured by those who fall afoul of “the Law”, a law that too often at once generates the drug trade (for instance), then punishes those who use the drugs authorized and channeled by the very system which created the laws. In this way, “the system” has its cake and eats it too.

How Long O Lord?” is ever the heartfelt cry in the Psalms, in the Book of Revelation, in the Prophets, in myriad human experiences of profound victimization and injustice. And so we work and wait for “Thy Kingdom Come“. Amen.

“These are not crimes that are being committed in isolation,” McLaughlin also said. “Black and brown men, and poor people, are being treated in this fashion.”‘Systemic crisis’: Tyre Nichols beating fuels calls for broad police reforms
The article highlighted is one more tragic of myriad instances of what the article introduced above rightly names “state terror.” It cannot be disputed (just try!) that the United States is the greatest terrorist organization — domestically and internationally — throughout its history by comparison to any other modern democracy. It is indeed a contender for one of the top 5 modern international state-terrorism organizations: alongside U.S.S.R./Russia, China, Israel, and other terrorist flavours of the year according to U.S. media–or not–such as Israel. For much more on this website, please see: U.S. domestic terrorism, and U.S. international terrorism.

In response to this title, ‘Systemic crisis’: Tyre Nichols beating fuels calls for broad police reforms, the true “systemic crisis” elicits the need for a complete scrapping of the American Experiment, in favour of a radical American Reformation that eradicates its core embrace of violence as primary means of conflict resolution. The entire history of the United States in this regard can be summed up in three words: Violence breeds violence.

Near the end of the article highlighted below there is:

Tyre Nichols’s death isn’t only an individual tragedy; he is now a marquee victim of a predacious system that America has lost its willingness to confront.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nailed it! One might however ask: When has America ever been willing to confront its “predacious system?” Possibly the closest it ever came to self-awareness was during Martin Luther King Jr.‘s years of “holding a mirror up to” (Skakespeare‘s HAMLET ACT 3, SCENE 2, 17–24) American premier cultural “nature” of violence. We read in “The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World,” by Liz Theoharis, originally published by Tom Dispatch, April 6, 2021:

Fifty-four years ago, standing at the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his now-famous “Beyond Vietnam” sermon. For the first time in public, he expressed in vehement terms his opposition to the American war in Vietnam. He saw clearly that a foreign policy defined by aggression hurt the poor and dispossessed across the planet. But it did more than that. It also drained this country of its moral vitality and the financial resources needed to fight poverty at home. On that early spring day, exactly one year before his assassination in 1968, Dr. King warned that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” a statement that should ring some bells in April 2021.

In his sermon, Dr. King openly wrestled with a thorny problem: how to advance nonviolent struggle among a generation of Black youth whose government had delivered little but pain and empty promises. He told the parishioners of Riverside Church that his years of work, both in the South and the North, had opened his eyes to why, as a practitioner of nonviolence, he had to speak out against violence everywhere — not just in the U.S. — if he expected people to take him at his word. As he explained that day:

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems… But they asked, and rightly so, ‘what about Vietnam?’ They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

Please also see, by Neil Gross, February 2, 2023: The Police Can Be Reformed. These Two Books Lay Out How. In it:

In the aftermath of Tyre Nichols’s killing, it’s easy to despair. But two new books show how police departments can alter their behavior.

In The Riders Come Out at Night: Brutality, Corruption, and Cover-Up in Oakland, the journalists Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham tell the story of Oakland, California’s police department. The title refers to a small group of officers who allegedly brutalized residents of impoverished, high-crime, largely Black West Oakland starting in the late 1990s. The actions of these cops became known only because a rookie named Keith Batt was assigned to train with one of them. Batt was deeply troubled by what he observed—behavior that Batt said included kidnapping, assault, and filing false police reports. He contacted internal-affairs investigators and became the main witness in a criminal case against the officers (three of whom stood trial; none was convicted).

A similarly hopeful lesson might be drawn from Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable, by the UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz. Many cops perform their difficult job admirably, but part of the problem with reforming the police is that when this isn’t the case, officers aren’t always held to account for their misdeeds. Schwartz’s focus is on understanding why this should be, and she lands on 11 areas where law, policy, and politics have converged to make it hard for victims of police abuse to get justice.

Among Schwartz’s insights: There aren’t enough lawyers with the expertise to file federal civil-rights cases against police, especially outside large urban centers. This is partially a function of the fee structure allowed by the courts; only rarely can plaintiffs’ attorneys recoup their full costs, so relatively few lawyers find this kind of work financially viable.

excerpts:

It cannot be disputed (just try!) that the United States is the greatest terrorist organization — domestically and internationally — throughout its history by comparison to any other modern democracy. For much more on this website, please see: U.S. domestic terrorism, and U.S. international terrorism.
When the winds shifted, these politicians spun like a weather vane.America — and the world — had the realization that police violence was a problem, and then it simply walked away before the work was done and the war was won.

After the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and the historic summer of protest that followed, police killings of American citizens didn’t decrease; they increased. What fell away were the evanescent allies, poll-chasing politicians and cooped-up Covid kids who had used the protests as an opportunity to congregate.

America should be ashamed. It abandoned the issue of police reform.

After Covid lockdowns eased and people were once again gathered for things other than protest, their priorities snapped back to a noninterventionist normality. Their cabin-fever racial consciousness was like some kind of delirium, an outgrowth of end-of-the-world ideations.

As the world reopened, elections approached and crime and inflation rose in tandem, interest in police reform and protecting Black lives from police violence melted away like ice cubes on a summer sidewalk.

Tyre Nichols’s death isn’t only an individual tragedy; he is now a marquee victim of a predacious system that America has lost its willingness to confront.

Too many liberal politicians showed us that their commitment to legislation, and even language, to protect Black lives from police violence was polling dependent, not rooted in moral rectitude or core values but governed by their ideas’ public appeal. When the winds shifted, these politicians spun like a weather vane.

They ran scared of being labeled woke or supporting a “defund the police” ideology. Rather than rebrand a laudable effort to be smarter about how municipal funds are allocated with a more acceptable slogan, they did the lazy, politically expedient thing: They raced to neutralize the idea by proclaiming their direct opposition to it, not defunding the police but increasing funding to police.

Police unions also learned a lesson: that they could survive the most intense and coordinated denunciation of their practices they had ever faced and still dodge federal legislation to address the violence that happens on their watch.

Please click on: Tyre Nichols’s Death Is America’s Shame

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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.