Tyre Nichols Is Another Victim Of A Flawed System — The Race Of The Police Officers Involved Is Irrelevant

He was almost home.

Tyre Nichols Shaun King/Instagram/YouTube

By now, most of us know about the traffic stop by five Memphis police officers that resulted in the severe beating and eventually the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Unlike the previous cases of police brutality such as Alton Sterling, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and many others, Nichols’ assailants were Black officers.

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The racial identity of Tyre Nichols' killers is irrelevant — white supremacy is still to blame.

On January 8, 2023, the Memphis Police Department tweeted the officers had pulled over a motorist because he was driving recklessly the day before they pulled him over.


The department stated, "As officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot."

According to them, officers caught up with the ‘suspect’ who we now know was Nichols, and a confrontation began.


The Memphis police say Nichols began to complain of shortness of breath, so an ambulance was called and he was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.

At the time, they disclosed that the District Attorney’s office had been notified and decided that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would be looking into the case.

That tweet also said that the officers involved in the traffic stop and subsequent physical encounter had been placed on leave.

On January 10, 2023, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted that Nichols had died as a result of his injuries.

The original tweet from the Memphis Police Department downplays the severity of the beating Nichols received at the hands of the cops that pursued him.


The preliminary autopsy results show that Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”

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The public was surprised to learn that five Black officers were involved.

Without knowing anything about the officers involved, it is easy to assume that they were white because that is usually the case in use-of-force incidents where a Black person is killed.

But, to the surprise of many, five Black police officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin II, Desmond Hills Jr., and Justin Smith have been charged with 2nd Degree Murder in the death of Nichols.

In Tennessee, the charge carries a sentence of 15-60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.


In addition, the officers have been indicted on charges of aggravated assault and kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.

Most of them have posted bond, but Haley is still in custody as of this morning, with a bail of $250,000.

It’s hard to imagine five Black men brutally beating another Black man and ‘oppressing’ him. But to understand how something like this could happen, you have to dig deep into the concepts of power, privilege, and patriarchy.

The officers were trained in a system rooted in anti-Blackness.

The Memphis Police Department demographics are 67% white, 13% Black, and 9% Hispanic or Latino.

Why is that important? In any environment, culture is dictated by those who have a majority. If you happen to be part of the minority population and seek to be accepted, you will assimilate to that culture.  


The concept of policing itself was first introduced as ‘slave patrol’, a system of terror that stopped slaves from rising up against ‘masters’ or fleeing. These ‘patrollers’ pursued, apprehended, and returned runaway slaves to their owners using excessive force to keep slaves under control and ‘well-behaved’.

As we see case after case of police officers overstepping their bounds and people of color paying the price, the “how dare you undermine my authority” still exists in modern times.

The overwhelming number of people of color who are arrested and incarcerated in the US is an indicator that the criminal justice system still disproportionately targets Black people.

It’s easy for those not impacted to brush slavery under the rug to avoid the guilt associated with it, but the ripple effects reverberate through our daily lives consciously and subconsciously, whether we like it or not.


One would think that the mere presence of Black officers in the Memphis Police Department would be a catalyst for change and acceptance and avoid incidents like that of Tyre Nichols. But contrarily, this seems to be a case of "if you can’t beat them, join them."

In an effort to find power, authority and identity — all things dominated by white men in the US — Black men feel pressure to clamor for some kind of proximity to whiteness.


These perceived advantages of white proximity are the driving force that inspires Black people to adopt anti-Black views and behaviors.

That reality — combined with a badge, a gun, and a uniform — means these officers were operating in the same racist system with the same racist ideals as their white counterparts.

Bean, Haley, Martin II, Hills Jr., and Smith wrongly believed that their white adjacency gave them the license to do what they did. They were wrong.

In record time, they were rightfully arrested, charged, and will never have the authority they so coveted again. The irony is that with their actions, they have become the criminals they presumed Tyre to be.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.