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‘I just didn’t expect to see five Black faces’

by Rep. Antonio Parkinson —

The recent tragedy involving Tyre Nichols has been weighing on my mind.

I’ve seen too many stories in the last several years about African Americans unjustly murdered by police.

You can recite the names as well as I can: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner. The list goes on and on.

But it’s more than just that.

It weighs on my mind that this happened in our community, just like the shooting spree this summer by Ezekiel Kelly, the September 2021 mass shooting at the Kroger in Collierville and the murder of Eliza Fletcher in September as she went on her morning jog.

Here’s what else weighs on my mind. It bothers me that five Black police officers were the only ones involved in this senseless tragedy regarding Nichols’ death.

Maybe it’s where my cultural habits and biases kick in, but I just didn’t expect to see five Black faces on my TV screen.

I thought there may have been one at most, because this is not what “we” do.

This is a learning and transparent moment for me because my hidden or learned biases automatically, in my mind, had me assuming there most of the officers were white.

With that realization came a different kind of anger than what I believed I would feel the information about happened was revealed.

For that, I make no excuses and I sincerely apologize. I’m brave enough to be honest about it.

Once it was revealed that five Black officers were involved, there was a different feeling inside me — more of a “hurt” feeling as in  “How could one of us do this to one of us?”

In the several phone calls I’ve had since the officers involved were revealed, one of the people I spoke to raise this question: Didn’t they see their own son or nephew in Tyre Nichols as the incident was happening?

This incident also speaks to me of the desensitization of the Black-on-Black deaths we hear about almost daily.

Why am I more hurt about this death, than I have been about the deaths of Black people that occur daily in our city at the hands of other Black people?

All the lives of the people who died at the hands of others in our city had value.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the hurt for them? Why are we hurting more in this situation?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose feelings are confused. I’m sure I’m not the only one, who assumed it would be a white officer at the forefront of this horrible death.

But when they are your own, what do you do? You hurt. But how do you handle it?

Where do we go from here? How do we ensure that we not only stop another death like Tyre Nichols, but all Black-on-Black deaths.

The response from Black Memphians, and Black America, is being watched and will become fodder for the media.

What will you do?

(Rep. Antonio Parkinson represents Tennessee House District 98 in Memphis.)

Fired! Five officers terminated in connection with ‘tragic death’ of Tyre D. Nichols

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