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Condemn or Condone: America Must Choose by Mark Lampkin

In these yet-to-be United States of America, we are once again witness to a brutal attack on a Black man by municipal law enforcement officers. This time in the City of Memphis, Tennessee. The man was stopped for some minor traffic infraction, or so we are told, and the officers, five of them, proceeded to physically attack the citizen.

Mr. Citizen ran…because, in this Nation, he knows that he is about to become a statistic. He ran because he was less than a quarter mile from his home. Maybe, just maybe, he could get to his home and seek refuge from these monsters with badges. He knows how this ends all too often.

What is startling to me and several people whose opinions I sought after this tragic incident is that Mr. Citizen should have felt a sense of relief when the officers stopped him because they had a similar skin complexion. Maybe, they would see his humanity ─see him as a possible family member, church member, or Brother.

They did not see him as any of those. They saw him as a Black man in a city with a staggering crime rate due to all the reasons we know exist in American cities today─ Poverty, lack of adequate public education, scant resources for those in the urban centers, and a prevalence of guns. He was a nobody. He wouldn’t matter. Let’s have some fun with him.

The fact that Mr. Tyre Nichols succumbed to the injuries sustained at the hands of these officers and that their reports of the incident were falsified, determined once the security camera footage was obtained, gave the Memphis Police Chief all she needed to dismiss them immediately from their taxpayer-funded duties. These men, though I use that word grudgingly, were part of a unit dubbed the Scorpions.

Rest assured that most Black folk in Memphis knew these men. They likely have used their badges, guns, and POWER to evoke fear in a community that needed them to CARE! What this also teaches us is that in this Nation, many Black and Brown people are not safe even from their own.

Have we become so ingrained in this “system” that we cannot, will not, see our own Brothers with compassion and empathy? We have come to expect White officers to treat us badly, but our own? That is something that speaks of a deeper illness. A deeper desire to distance oneself from who YOU are.

Legal scholar Amara Enyia says, “being Black and a police officer does not undo the inherent anti-Blackness in the policing system.”

“That’s one of the most insidious characteristics of the system because we may buy into a notion that because they are Black means they can’t possibly adopt the norms and values of the system,” said Enyia, a policy and research manager for the Movement for Black Lives, a national advocacy coalition aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Are there criminals who, Black and Brown, deserve to be arrested, tried, and convicted of their crimes? YES. But they should be afforded all those opportunities. Not served a trial and sentencing on the street by those who’ve taken the oath to Serve and PROTECT. When we are now the oppressors of the disenfranchised, we are truly lost.

Sixty years ago, many Black men tried in vain to become sworn peace officers. Most were unsuccessful. Their goal was to be a voice of reason in precincts that had no concern for the welfare of the Black community. They believed that their presence and voices would make a difference. They would be ashamed to see the injustice the Scorpion Unit dealt to Tyre Nichols in the year 2023.

America must Condemn this state-sanctioned violence or admit to everyone the real possibility that it could be your son or daughter next time. And it may not be captured on video. Oops.

Peace.