As an African American man, the killing of Tyre Nichols is personal. While living in Wisconsin I was stopped 7 times. The last time was for not stopping at the white line before the stop sign. I came to a full stop, but not on the line. With every police encounter, I’m thinking of what I must do so I will not become another victim: Keep both hands exposed at all times. No sudden movements. Announce my actions before I make them. No emotions. “Yes, officer.” When I see the Tyre video, I realize how dangerous it is for me and all people of color just to wear ourbeautiful skin behind the wheel.

I asked Rev. Beth Brown for a response to the Tyre Nichols video. Rev. Beth Brown is pastor of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church. She is also an interim commissioner on the Chicago Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA). Today I can’t hold it together enough for a cogent article. The following are remarks Beth made before her church, Lincoln Park Presbyterian, on Sunday:

On Friday evening when the video footage of the brutal beating and murder of Tyre Nichols at the hands of 5 police officers in Memphis was released, it once again portrayed something we already know. The system of policing in this country has long been broken and is geared toward anti-black hatred and oppression. Black and brown people suffer far more at the hands of police than do white people, even when the police are also black and brown. Rather than listen to voices who are saying and will be saying that the murder of Tyre Nichols has nothing to do with race or white supremacy, listen more deeply to what you know. The devaluation of black and brown lives is baked into this country and into every system we know. It not only infects and affects white people in power, it also infects and affects black and brown people in power. 

We must also pay attention to how the same devaluing of black and brown lives has resulted in swift action and consequences for the 5 black officers. Officers who are white never receive this kind of swift action and consequences. As a white person I am committed to telling the truth about all of the ways systemic racism and injustice impact all of us. 

Here in Chicago, we have decades and decades of examples of our own police abuse and misconduct directed primarily toward black and brown people. We have units just like the Scorpion Unit the 5 officers were a part of in Memphis. Young black men in N. Lawndale call them the “jump out boys” because of how often they are harassed for no reason by them. Our units have not been disbanded or suspended, however. They are still active and on the streets of Chicago. One of the primary strategies in the city for getting guns off the street is to do aggressive traffic stops. Part of the work I am doing with the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability is focused on ending the abuses. We will not stop until the culture of the Chicago Police Department changes and black and brown people can live in peace without being harassed and abused and ignored by the police. Working toward greater police accountability in Chicago is one part of our worshipful work. 

All around the City of Chicago there are cries for more police, more funding, and more protection of majority white neighborhoods. As crime increases, the neighbors around our church are paying more than $70,000 to hire a private security firm to patrol the streets. This same private security firm hires off duty active CPD officers. What is wrong with that picture?

You can read more about Beth and her work with CCPSA in the Reader article here.