The Killing of Tyre Nichols


The behavior exhibited by the Memphis “Scorpion Unit” makes this humble spirit’s head spin, along with my stomach, in ways I didn’t know it could.  What was that?!  If their actions weren’t so atrocious, the so-called Scorpions might be compared to the Keystone Cops lost in a modern-day hellscape: those five big, burly guys couldn’t subdue a 140lb. man, they sprayed themselves with pepper spray, then let him get away, and could barely put on his handcuffs when they finally caught up with him.  One officer even injured his leg by kicking their victim too hard once he was on the ground.  Thank goodness the Scorpion Unit has been disbanded; let’s hope nothing like it is ever seen in our country again.

Why would five Black cops attack a brother like that?  Their hysterical fury and total lack of humanity was on par with the worst racist rage of any white supremacist.  Whether it be the cops who beat Rodney King, Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck or the officers responsible for killing a whole list of Black men in recent years (Daunte Wright, Andrew Brown, Ronald Greene, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark, Antwon Rose, Jr. and Trayvon Martin, just to name a few), the Scorpion Unit was no less adept at ritualized killing.  

When this former Confederate officer was a boy growing up on his father’s Alabama cotton farm in the years leading up to the Civil War, we had what were called “Slave possies” that hunted down runaways. They usually consisted of the country sheriff accompanied by a band of mercenary deputies, the worst sort of white trash who would have gladly killed a runaway in the blink of an eye.  But as slaves, Black men were valuable commodities, and the owners’ taxes paid the sheriff’s salary, so the patrols usually refrained from killing their prey.  They might beat the crap out of them, but their captive’s real punishment generally fell to the master.  Many received a terrible whipping (the “lash,” they called it), but given that scars evidenced bad behavior and reduced the slave’s value, many refrained.  Still, to this day, if you run from the police and get caught, especially if you’re Black, chances are you’ll get a terrible beating, as was the case with Tyre Nichols.  

With his opposition to teaching AP African American History in his state, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has once again shown his true colors, of which there are none—he’s nothing but a WHITE supremacist catering to the worst MAGA Republican “base,” people who refuse to accept our country’s history and insist on pushing their ignorant, sick fantasies (think QAnon!) down our throats. Newsflash people—African Americans ARE part of the “real” America; the “real” America isn’t just WHITE America. African American History isn’t “Woke”—it’s an important part of the truth about our country.

I Hesitate to Compare the Case of Tyre Nichols to Jim Crow Era Lynchings, But Not So Much That I Won’t!  

While I’ve previously expressed my horror and outrage at the killings cited above, I have also defended law enforcement, who every day are unfairly expected to solve far too many of society’s systemic problems (in a nutshell, the multitude of negative consequences resulting from our nation’s totally unacceptable racial and economic inequality). But seeing what was done to Tyre Nichols, I wonder if my empathy for “the blue” misses the point, the significance of what happens when one puts on a badge.  Maybe that symbol of power brings out the very worst in men, regardless of their skin color, and transforms them into members of a modern slave possie, a wolfpack of willing hunters for the “master’s” property.

The most disturbing thing about the attack on Tyre Nichols was the raging fury exhibited by the five officers from the moment they approached his car.  All they knew was that he was a Black dude, and as someone wrote on a memorial to Daunte Wright, “Driving while Black should not be a death sentence.” Why was the Scorpion Unit SO VERY angry?  There’s no logic that justifies the near hysterical, out of control behavior that found an unlucky victim in Tyre Nichols.  How could better training possibly control a human wolfpack of that sort?  Indeed, it’s as if a badge becomes a license to kill that trumps any professional training we will ever devise.

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