I shouldn’t have to say that Black lives matter.
That seems like such a cheap thing to say. Let me try again. I shouldn’t have to say that Black lives, Black human beings, Black stories, Black experience, matter. Black fathers matter. Black artists matter. Black skateboarders matter. Tyre Nichols mattered. His family’s grief matters. The collective trauma of his community matters. I should not be writing about a horrific murder today. Tyre Nichols should be playing with his son and going skateboarding.
I should not have to tell you that it’s a bad idea to try to solve the problem of “high-crime neighborhoods” by sending violent gangs of angry men into the neighborhoods specifically to rough up and intimidate the people who live there. But that’s exactly what was done.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that calling these neighborhoods “high crime” in the first place is just a victim-blaming euphemism for “poor and Black” and I shouldn’t have to explain that the poverty and desperation in those neighborhoods was deliberately manufactured. We ought to know our history better than that.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that the murder of Tyre Nichols was a lynching, and that lynching has always been a form of terrorism. Going into one of “those neighborhoods” and picking out an innocent person to brutally, torture to death just a few steps from his mother’s home as a warning to everyone in that neighborhood not to step out of line, is a lynching. The purpose of lynching is to terrorize the community. And I’m not the one to explain to you how it is that Black police officers could commit a lynching like this. You should listen to what the Black community is saying about the intersection of race and police violence. Until we eradicate the white supremacism which has infected our country from the beginning, the law enforcement arm of the state is always going to be a force of white supremacist terrorism. That’s how it works.
I should not have heard of Tyre Nichols by hearing about his agonizing death. That shouldn’t be the conversation we’re having today. I shouldn’t have first known that such a person existed by seeing that photo of him in the hospital, beaten to a pulp. I should have stumbled across his beautiful photography and been writing a post to tell you all about the talented new artist I just discovered. He should be taking more photos for all of us to admire.
I hate living in a country where it doesn’t.
I want us to be better.
That’s all I have today.
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.