Multiple Memphis Police officers appear to beat Tyre Nichols. (Credit: NBC News)
After news broke that Tyre Nichols died after a violent beating by five Memphis Police officers — and let’s be honest — people of color and white people alike wondered, many aloud, how the media and the predictable protesters would frame their responses, given that Nichols and the officers were black.
Was the brutality an act of police violence, or something more?
“Shockingly,” CNN’s Van Jones — who wasn’t the Lone Ranger — opted for “something more.” As my colleague Jim Thompson reported, CNN’s race-hustler extraordinaire declared that the alleged killing of Nichols was “racist.” Yes, really. Jones’s illogical “logic”: racism is defined only by the skin color of the victim, not by the skin color of his or her alleged attacker(s).
With that simple declaration, Jones unwitting opened a huge can of worms. Here’s a snippet of Jones’ advanced rationalization:
At the end of the day, it is the race of the victim who is brutalized — not the race of the violent cop — that is most relevant in determining whether racial bias is a factor in police violence. It’s hard to imagine five cops of any color beating a White person to death under similar circumstances. And it is almost impossible to imagine five Black cops giving a White arrestee the kind of beat-down that Nichols allegedly received.
I’m not going to bother rebutting the nonsensical, advanced rationalization Van Jones used to play the race card on the senseless brutality unleashed against 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. But I am going to turn to longtime sports journalist, columnist, and podcaster Jason Whitlock — who is also black — for his take on the inexcusable tragedy in Memphis.
In an op-ed posted on Blaze Media, Whitlock said the tragic death of Nichols raised the possibility that the conflict between black men and law enforcement, in general, has more to do with attitude than racism.
[T]he Tyre Nichols video could spark nationwide rioting. Nichols could be George Floyd 2.0. CNN sent Don Lemon to Memphis to fan the flames. Memphis’ police chief, Cerelyn Davis, is doing her part to hype unrest. She’s conducted multiple interviews that, in my opinion, are aimed at increasing maximum anger and hostility. “You’re going to see acts that defy humanity,” she told Don Lemon.
Incidentally, it can be argued that then-President Barack Obama fanned racially-divisive flames in an effort to hype unrest multiple times, from his “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” in response to the death of Trayvon Martin, and his irresponsible comments about racial bias in Michael Brown‘s death in Ferguson, Missouri. But, I digress.
Whitlock continued, pointing out the larger issue, as he sees it, in Memphis.
The five police officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Like Nichols, the five officers are young, black men. The oldest officer is 32. The youngest is 24.
Cerelyn Davis, the police chief, is a black woman. Her predecessor, Michael Rallings, was a black man. His predecessor, Toney Armstrong, was a black man.
The city of Memphis is 65% black and is beset with a troubling pattern of black men killing each other.
Whitlock compared the Tyre Nichols case with that of Rodney King, who in 1991 was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers during an arrest, after a pursuit for driving while intoxicated. (King, who died in 2012, survived the beating.)
The case of Tyre Nichols tells a different story than the Rodney King case. King was black. The four officers tried for assaulting King were white. Corporate media framed the Rodney King case as an example of police misconduct fueled by racism.
Perhaps there’s a different common denominator in cases of police violence. Maybe the proper narrative focuses on attitude and frustration. Perhaps an attitude of resistance triggers lethal frustration among law enforcement.
Maybe people, regardless of color, who do not resist the commands and authority of law enforcement never trigger lethal frustration from police.
Whitlock’s last point was critical. Regardless of guilt or innocence, resisting the commands of law enforcement officers, generally in charged situations, never ends well for the resister — and the police ultimately “win.” None of us will ever know what ran through Tyre Nichols’ mind — and nothing can ever excuse the brutality of those five officers — but from the moment he was jerked out of his car, he was no doubt terrified, which appeared to lead to his subsequent actions.
Whitlock poignantly referred to the death of his younger cousin, Anton Butler, in Indianapolis in 2012. Jason grew up in Indianapolis, which is where I live, and he was a classmate of my late wife’s younger sister. The point is, I remember the case — and Whitlock — very well. He wrote:
I know exactly how the Tyre Nichols family feels. As I’ve shared previously, in 2012, my cousin, Anton Butler, was tasered to death by Indianapolis sheriffs in the storming rain. The sheriffs claimed he resisted arrest and forced them to use their tasers.
I helped raise Anton. I bought him school clothes and Christmas gifts — read books with him. He, his brother, and cousins spent summers with me in Kansas City [where Whitlock was a sports radio host at the time] when they were children. I loved Anton. I paid for his funeral. I believe the sheriffs overreacted.
And then this: “I also believe Anton made a mistake resisting their commands.” Think that one through.
Whitlock then reflected on policing in general, particularly in crime-ridden cities:
Policing is a frustrating, high-stress job. It’s a mistake to increase the stress and frustration of police officers. You can trigger them to combust. As a man, I am primarily responsible for my safety — the government is not. My attitude toward law enforcement is to reduce stress. I’ve been pulled over for speeding numerous times. My attitude has created many warning tickets and no violence.
Too many young, black men have been programmed to hate and fear the police. The hate and fear spark resistance, which elevates frustration.
The frustration of law enforcement is not color-coded. Black and white officers feel the exact same frustration and lose control of themselves at the same rate. We can’t keep doing the exact same things, expecting new results. How many cities must burn to the ground before we change the discussion about law enforcement and the black community?
Again, if found guilty, the officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols should be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. That said, Jason Whitlock’s critical point about the left intentionally fanning racial flames, particularly within the black community, has created the mindset in much of the country that America’s law enforcement officers are predominately racist.
Do bad cops, intent on using their badges as an excuse to do bad things, exist? Of course, they do; bad people intent on doing bad things exist in every occupation and walk of life. They always have and they always will, and they should be served appropriate justice when they do so.
It’s a shame that politicians and “journalists” who fan the flames aren’t served due justice, as well.