As I write this, we are less than two hours from the official release of the bodycam footage of the slaying of Tyre Nichols.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch it.
I am not planning on sharing it on social media because so many Black commentators have been asking us not to.
Mr. Nichols isn’t a mascot, he’s a human being. We’re all going to find out what’s on the footage anyway.
Everyone who has seen this video has warned that it is traumatic, infuriating and revolting. It’s so horrific that the whole country is bracing for protests— and I hope there are protests. There ought to be.
I cannot begin to imagine what the Nichols family is enduring right now. I cannot begin to imagine what it will be like for them to re-live this horrific event again and again over the weekend. I am currently watching the videos of Mr. Nichols skateboarding, and grieving for him even though I didn’t know him. Their agony must be infinitely worse.
I am angry that, as is so often the case, the authorities are demanding nonviolence of the protesters ahead of the weekend’s protests. The White House especially seems to be rubbing salt in the wound by asking protesters to remain nonviolent in the paragraphs before they demand accountability of law enforcement. As with the murder of George Floyd, this is law enforcement’s fault. Law enforcement did this. They are the ones who devour enormous percentages of every American city’s budget, because they promise to protect us from those who would do us harm. And then they do this. And then everyone warns the community they harmed not to be violent.
I do not condone violence.
But I can’t see the justice in demanding that the victims of systemic violence stop squirming BEFORE we remove the knee from their necks.
That’s not how justice works.
That’s not how a social contract is supposed to work.
And that’s all I’m going to say for now, because I’d much rather you listened to what the Black community is saying about this than what I have to say– about the fact that the police officers indicted for Nichols’s murder are themselves Black, about how policing works in America, about how it impacts them, about what steps to take next. I couldn’t begin to explain it to you and they can.
But I couldn’t just say nothing.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.