Statement on Tyre Nichols
January 30, 2023
Last Friday, the Memphis Police Department released footage of five officers brutally beating Tyre Nichols during a routine traffic stop. Three days later, Nichols passed away in the hospital from his wounds.
We are weary. We are heartbroken. How can we celebrate Black History Month when our society still tolerates the brutal murder of Black people as a normal part of everyday life? We only pay attention to this relentless disregard for Black life when it happens in its most gruesome and barbaric forms. While some have celebrated accountability measures such as body cameras, others have drawn parallels between the release of these videos and public lynchings of the past. Tyre Nichols, when we think of the senseless death you suffered, we are ashamed and enraged. We mourn your death, and we grieve with your family and loved ones.
Yet, we will not shrink back in cynicism or despair. We will keep politicians accountable for their failure to create even an image of reform within the criminal justice system. But we will not stop there. We will creatively and boldly imagine how each of us may take part in the building of an abolitionist world, where we will respond to harm without punitive or carceral solutions. Diversification of the police force is not enough; we must recognize that the police are a white supremacist institution. Just as their history is rooted in slave patrols, they continue to function today as a mechanism for maintaining racial hierarchy, regardless of the race of their actors.
We will study, organize, protest, commune together, and raise our voices in the small and big spheres of influence that we each have. “Hope is a discipline,” Mariame Kaba said. “We will not sit back and wait until somebody else opens up the skies and lets the angels sing, ‘Abolition!’ We will create the conditions for an abolitionist world to exist and thrive.” We strive to establish a society in which we all have everything we need: food, shelter, work, education, health, beauty, and more. Only then will we stop resorting to violence as a means of establishing public safety.
As we enter Black History Month, we recognize the importance of learning about painful histories, and acknowledge that it is just as important to recognize histories of resistance, celebration, and joy. Black experiences cannot be reduced to suffering. So this month, we encourage you to engage with Neal-Marshall's Black History Month events around the theme “For the Love of Soul,” even as we recognize how far we have to go.