The killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five black police officers is proof enough for progressives that white supremacy is now colorblind, afflicting black as well as white. Policing in its entirety is now a racist endeavor, apparently due to a mind virus of some kind.
Earlier this year, progressives expanded the definition of white supremacy into a diversity of colors, claiming that proximity to “whiteness” causes minorities to embrace their own inferiority and bend the knee to their cultural betters. It took less than a month for this evidence-free, completely counterfactual idea to go mainstream in the wake of the police murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, TN. To be sure, the video released last week of the killing on January 7 is gruesome and shocking. Five officers approach Mr. Nichols after stopping him for supposedly driving erratically. They do not ask for his license or perform a sobriety test. Instead, they came up on him with at least one gun drawn and yelled, “Get the fuck out of the car.” They continued to deliver something on the order of 71 separate commands in less than 15 minutes, many of which disagreed with one another, as they forcibly hauled him out of the vehicle. Mr. Nichols complied at first, claiming “I didn’t do anything” as he got on the ground, telling them “All right, I’m on the ground.” The officers continued to berate and threaten him even then, “Bitch, put your hands behind your back before I…I’m going to knock your ass the fuck out.” Mr. Nichols pleaded, “I’m just trying to go home.” At some point, Mr. Nichols got up and attempted to run away as one of the officers used a Taser on him. The beating that lead to his death occurred shortly after, while an officer yells “I’m going to baton the fuck out of you,” and another asked, “Do you want to be sprayed again?” Mr. Nichols pleaded for his mom as he is beaten nine times in four minutes. The beating included shoves to the pavement, two kicks to the face, and an attack with a nightstick. Even after he’s pulled back to his feet, he’s hit again in the face multiple times with his hands restrained. He fell back on his knees at that point, and appears to have been kicked again. The officers then left him leaning against a car for almost a half hour before an ambulance arrived. As far as we can tell, no first aid was administered before then.
The events that preceded the killing remain unknown at this time, but the actions of the police officers in question have been universally condemned for overwhelmingly obvious reasons. Mr. Nichols was 29 years old and had no criminal record. He was not armed and did not assault the officers. He did try to escape after the initial altercation, but nothing seemed to warrant the brutality unleashed upon him, five men against one on the ground, complete with threats and curses, as if they were gangster not police. I, for one, was reminded on the shocking tales of police violence and corruption in HBO’s excellent We Own This City. Regardless, rare is the occasion when the likes of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agree. “I thought it was terrible. He was in such trouble,” President Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday. “He was just being pummeled. Now that should never have happened.” “Look, the tape was perhaps not totally conclusive, but to me, it was pretty conclusive, and it was vicious and violent and hard to believe — over a traffic violation,” he added. President Biden claimed he “was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating” and the “footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged.” To my knowledge, not a single public figure, either a politician or the media, has even attempted to defend the actions of the five officers, believing they are justifiably being called murderers even before they are proven guilty in a court of law. The Memphis Police Department acted swiftly in that regard as well, firing all five men involved and charging them with second-degree murder. The SCORPION Unit, of which they were a part, has also been disbanded. Two other police officers have also been relieved of duty. The investigation remains ongoing, but so far, at least three members of the Memphis Fire Department, all emergency medical staff, were also fired for violating “numerous MFD Policies and Protocols.” “Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community,” the department said in a statement.
In a rational world, a combination of universal condemnation, immediate firings, murder charges, and disbanding the unit in question would be more than enough action before the investigation is completed and additional reforms can be recommended based on the facts. Our world has long since abandoned rationality, however, and progressives have immediately seized upon the events to condemn policing throughout the United States as a racist endeavor in general. The only problem is: All five of the officers involved in the killing of Mr. Nichols were black themselves. On its face, this is not like the 2020 killing of George Floyd where the officer with his knee on his neck in the brutal video was white. This was not even like the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown where initial reports claimed the white officer fired while Mr. Brown had his hands up, pleading not to shoot before the facts destroyed that narrative and it was determined conclusively that Mr. Brown had charged the officer. In both of those cases, there was an obvious racial angle, whether the officer in question was ultimately exonerated or convicted. This time, the average person isn’t likely to believe that five black men were secretly card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan, but those among us who see every incident and fact of American life through the lens of race would not be so simply denied. Fortunately for them, the new idea that white supremacy comes in a rainbow of colors was readily accessible, and less than 48 hours later even more mainstream outlets like CNN had seized on it. Former Obama Administration official Van Jones believes that the killing “might have been caused by racism” anyhow. “From the King beating [in 1991] to the murder nearly three years ago of George Floyd, American society has often focused on the race of the officers — so often White — as a factor in their deplorable acts of violence, but the narrative ‘White cop kills unarmed Black man’ should never have been the sole lens through which we attempted to understand police abuse and misconduct. It’s time to move to a more nuanced discussion of the way police violence endangers Black lives.” Of course, this “nuance” invariably allows progressives to blame racism and white supremacy. There is never any nuance that allows you to see it another way. In Mr. Jones’ view, the mechanism at play is the black mind itself, which can be corrupted apparently by white people and is not “not immune to anti-Black messages.” “Over many decades,” you see, “numerous experiments have shown that these ideas can infiltrate Black minds as well as White. Self-hatred is a real thing.”
Here, Mr. Jones links to a single experiment conducted by a teacher on 28 children in 1968. The experiment in question divided students based on whether they had blue or brown eyes, and substituted that factor for race. At first, the students were informed that brown eyes were superior. The teacher “described to her colleagues what she’d done, remarking how several of her slower kids with brown eyes had transformed themselves into confident leaders of the class. Withdrawn brown-eyed kids were suddenly outgoing, some beaming with the widest smiles she had ever seen on them” according to a 2005 article in the Smithsonian Magazine. The teacher continued to conduct the exercise in the classroom for several more years, but otherwise there were no actual measurements, no analysis, nothing. This, however, is what the so-called party of science uses to proclaim that even after the civil rights movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the 1619 Project, the Critical Race Theory craze, a black President, a black Vice President, and more, the black mind remains apparently so weak in their eyes that they can catch racism from white people. Once that is established, Mr. Jones claims that’s “why a Black store owner might regard customers of his same race with suspicion, while treating his White patrons with deference. Black people can harbor anti-Black sentiments and can act on those feelings in harmful ways.” The same forces are apparently at play in police departments, where officers of all races are socialized to view “certain neighborhoods as war zones,” “few officers get disciplined for dishing out ‘street justice,’” and “there is a tacit understanding that the ‘rulebook’ simply doesn’t apply. Cops of all colors, including Black police officers, internalize those messages — and sometimes act on them.” In support of this conclusion, Mr. Jones cited a rap song by NWA (I’m serious) and then opined “it is the race of the victim who is brutalized — not the race of the violent cop — that is most relevant in determining whether racial bias is a factor in police violence.” This, of course, is a complete inversion of everyone’s understanding of how the world worked right up until the video was released on a Friday. A hate crime requires bias on the part of the perpetrator. The government must prove that the criminal acted out of hatred, not merely that the victim was a minority. Putting this another way, if I were to attack Will Smith while robbing his mansion, it would not be a hate crime whether or not Mr. Smith is black. My motive would be money. Mr. Jones, however, suddenly suggests that a mind virus infects black people and makes them beat up their own. Therefore, the race of the victim is more important than anything else.
Incredibly, he did not have the most ludicrous take on the horrific incident. Activist and filmmaker Bree Newsome Bass proclaimed that policing is racism and that the police intentionally damage the property of minorities and other poor people. Writing on Twitter, she hypothesized that “Diversifying the police force doesn’t end racism because racism is inherent to the organization of the institution & its daily operation. Racism is what policing is.” Of course, the data does not remotely support such a claim, more whites are arrested every year than blacks. In 2019, for example, the FBI reported that there were 4,729,290 whites arrested compared to 1,815,144 blacks. Whites accounted for 69.4%, and blacks for 26.6%. It is fair to consider why blacks are overrepresented by percentage of population, but that is not what Ms. Newsome Bass is claiming. If “racism is what policing is,” one would expect far more black to be arrested than whites, period. She is aware of this, and in her follow up, she cleverly introduced economics into the discussion. “The white owner class is not policed or surveilled because the function of the police is to maintain the race/class hierarchy & protect only the property of the wealthy, not the property of the poor which they regularly damage.” Even if we ignore the fact that Ms. Newsome Bass vocally supported the riots, looting, and massive property destruction that engulfed America in the summer of 2020, claiming black people should not be “expected or respond to centuries of tyranny with ‘peaceful protests,’” which is it? The white supremacy project, as it is normally understood, is about race and race only. It sees poor white people as being superior to even rich black people. Hence the “white privilege” canard which encapsulates the idea that race is the determining factor above all else and I am somehow more privileged than Will Smith. The difference is important: I would generally support the idea that much of policing is driven by economics for various reasons and the police tend to prey on poor people because they are easier targets. Having grown up in a middle class neighborhood, the police were not in our backyards in high school shaking us down for a little pot. I understand the situation is not the same in poorer areas, though the reasons behind it are certainly debatable. At the same time, I vehemently reject the idea that rampant hidden racism in some mind virus form is the root cause of our challenges.
Jemelle Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, responded to Ms. Newsome Bass by expanding upon the underlying point, claiming that not only can black people be infected by racism, but that police in general is a product of white supremacist violence. “I need so many people to understand this regarding Tyre Nichols. Several of the officers who murdered Freddie Gray were Black. The entire system of policing is based on white supremacist violence. We see people under the boot of oppression carry its water all the time.” Ms. Hill failed to mention that the officers involved in Mr. Gray’s tragic death were not convicted of any crime. Three of the four were acquitted, one was a mistrial, and charges against the others were dropped. The Department of Justice also investigated the incident, partially under President Obama and partially under President Trump, but did not bring charges against any of the officers. This does not prevent her from plunging ahead to her larger point, that policing is a product of white supremacist violence. It has always been ironic to me that those who rail against stereotypes applied to black and brown people frequently use even broader generalizations against institutions and groups they do not like. In this case, there are approximately 18,000 local, state, and federal law enforcement organizations across the United States, and yet Ms. Hill does not hesitate to claim that white supremacist violence is at the core of each and every one, from north to south, east to west. Of course, many of these departments were formed after the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement, and many were never in slave states or states with a history of segregation. How precisely were these departments formed in service of white supremacy? Why would that possibly be the case? One could argue that in ex-Confederate states the Ku Klux Klan co-opted the police and used them for racist purposes, but how does that apply in states without a history of the movement? The New York City police, for example, did not have a history of racism in the late 1800’s, having not been a slave state. They did, however, have a history of massive corruption. Any racism in the department came much later. Even if one were to accept Ms. Hill’s generalization, she fails to explain how this would continue to be the case decades after the Civil Rights movement. What about policing is inherently a white supremacist endeavor and why do law-abiding minorities who regularly clamor for more police in their neighborhoods want more racism in their lives?
They will never answer that question because there is no answer. To the extent that there is a pernicious mind virus out there, it has affected progressives. In less than a month, it’s spread from white supremacy being a diverse movement in theory, to in practice being the cause of the homicide of a black man at the hands of five other black men. This sort of thinking is the disease, not the cure.