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Being a Better Human – what’s so difficult?

Photo by Saroj Gajurel on

There’s another name added to the countless black men and women’s lives lost due to police brutality in the United States. Tyre Nichols, a Black man, was the latest victim at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community. Mr. Nichols died of injuries on January 10, 2023 – three days after receiving a brutal beating by Memphis police officers at an apparent traffic stop on January 7, 2023. There are plenty of details available online for anyone curious about all the horrific details. A tragic video exists that documents the savage way this 29-year-old man received injuries resulting in his death. At this time, in early February 2023, five police officers were already charged in connection with Tyre Nichols’s murder. There are multiple counts, including aggravated kidnapping, second-degree murder, aggravated assault, official misconduct, and official suppression – according to televised reports from January 26, 2023.  

Thoughts are prayers by sincere people do matter but don’t do much to help the heartbreak of the mothers, fathers, and families of the victims of unnecessary violence by law enforcement. It doesn’t have to be said, but common sense lets us know all policemen aren’t the same. But this piece isn’t about the good law enforcement men and women who execute their jobs with fairness and dignity to their public. What’s being discussed in this case is the police officers that fail to honor their oath to protect the public they serve. Reports of Tyre Nichols’s mother attempting to watch the video of his beating are unimaginable to me as a parent. RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols’s mother, was said to have watched the video for less than a minute.[1] No parent should have to bury their child – a phrase that we’ve all heard too much in recent years.    

Aside from the obvious outcry that widespread law enforcement reform is needed in America, significant legislation has yet to pass. The George Floyd Policing Act of 2020 was passed by the Democrats in the House Of Representatives in 2021. Unfortunately, efforts to pass it in the Senate were unsuccessful.   

In this instance, justice was swift for the perpetrators of another unjust crime against a Black person by law enforcement. A mere ten days after Mr. Nichols’s death, police officers were fired by their Memphis police department. In addition, reports today indicate another police officer was fired, and two first responders were suspended in connection with Tyre Nichols’s death.[2] Does it matter that, in this particular case, the officers were Black and menacing a Black citizen? Some would say the swift justice brought against the officers had plenty to do with the race of the officers. Who knows – not I. There’s something lacking in America’s system of justice.

A larger issue, in my opinion, is the lack of humanity of people, in general, at this time in history. Whether or not the officers were taught proper arrest techniques, this devastating tragedy shouldn’t have happened. Where was the understanding and consideration of human life by these officers and those in past cases of police brutality? Watching the video, I saw no pause or mercy, compassion, from the five officers who committed the heinous act against Tyre Nichols. This wasn’t the first video on record showing police brutality. However, it was the most gut-wrenching I’d ever watched from the countless other videos of police brutality that exist. No human being should be treated by their fellow man like Tyre Nichols and the countless others that suffered at the hands of those who held the public’s trust. For me, watching the video was necessary. Burying our heads in the sand as Americans and hoping for a change is worthless.

Shouldn’t human beings, especially those placed in authority, strive to be better humans? No matter what instruction or lack of education is gained by our jobs, empathy matters – common sense matters. Yes, updated police reform laws are in desperate need in the United States. But where is the love for another living person? Training alone can’t effectively teach love and compassion for one’s fellow man. Empathy has to be inherent in one’s character – to some extent. All human beings deserve the respect of being allowed to live to face any possible charges or crimes in a court of law. At least, that’s what we’re taught at an early age in school and by most of our families about living in a democratic society.

R.H.W. Dorsey is a novelist, poet, and multi-genre writer.