It has taken me days to process the events in Memphis, Tennessee.
As someone who works in the DEI space many have reached out to ask my opinion on policing in America.
Some have said, "Do you think it's all about racist systems?"
In pondering that question, the only person I have reached out to talk about this incident has been my own mother. At 84, she was the only person I could reach out to in order to make since of the world we currently find ourselves. Like Tyre, I wanted my mama to reassure me that the world was still a good place.
To my surprise, my mother, this Bible reading and studying woman who throughout my youth talked only about me being my Brother's Keeper, simply said, it's the result of a tribal caste system.
What? Wow! After I hung up from her, with her ending the call with the words, "An eye for an eye might make the whole world blind, but no mother wants to lose her child as a result of someone's perceived idea of power."
As I thought about her words of a tribal caste system, I knew she meant that this was not about race. Are police systems racist? Absolutely. But have other officers, Black, Hispanic and Asian learned the behavior of the blue wall and now believe in this caste system that has created this perceived power dynamic. Regardless of the color of the officer, the uniform is still blue.
If you have ever read the wonderfully powerful book, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, you begin to understand how these power dynamics have come about in America.
Police departments are about culture and climate. And the culture and climates of police departments across this country need to shift from this tribal caste mentality. These officers felt "safe" terrorizing this young man because they felt safe with each other.
It causes one to ask, "why didn't at least one of them say or think that what they were doing was wrong or at least enough, or that they were crossing a line?"
The reason is simply no one wants to be seen as going against the blue wall, or the crowd. Group mentality is a dangerous thing in society. It is what caused Jan. 6 in this country. It is what has caused many atrocities in human history.
Until we can think for ourselves, individually and know instinctively right from wrong...the group mentality can and always will win.
Most people are more interested in what did Tyre Nichols "do" to cause the police to beat him to death? We could ask that same question about other incidents in history...things like slavery, and what caused people to beat, rape, abuse other human beings.
This country has a system of justice (no matter how broken) and Tyre was entitled to the same provisions of that justice system as any and all Americans. The job of the police is to arrest, when they believe someone has committed a crime, not to administer justice (yes, my undergrad degree is in Criminal Justice for those who might ask what my knowledge is based upon).
Ma...Ma...Ma. We all know that no matter how old we get, we all call out to that one person we know can bring us comfort in times of fear and harm.
Tonight, as I sit here writing this, I think again about my own mother and know that she is praying for the safety and security of each one of her children in a country, nation that under similar circumstances, might not recognize their humanity.
Let's end tribal caste systems by holding people accountable individually and collectively (through the systems that support this kind of behavior), and let's stop using DEI as some trendy fad, and an out to holding people accountable. I'm sorry but Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is not some academic study. If behavior doesn't change, there will be no change in systems. People make up systems, and no tool kit can change your attitude. Behavior does not change without consequences.
We can only become better through changes in behavior, and we each must be willing to admit that we are responsible for our own behavior. Yet, if you would be willing to hold your family and friends accountable for fear-based and ego-based behavior, who knows we may one day create a society that is a place where everyone can thrive.