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Hopes and Dreams Stories of Reflection

I am sorry. I am sad. I am angry.

James Warren January 28, 2023
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I am sorry, Tyre.

I am sorry that you are no longer physically here, to grace us with your life, your love and your friendship. I checked out your website today. I love how you signed the message to visitors “Your friend, Tyre D. Nichols.” I watched the montage video of you skating. My man! You looked like you were having a great time. I can see why your mother said skating was your passion.

I am sorry that the world has come to know your name not because of your photography, or the Black Joy you showed us skateboarding, or some other thing you might have done with the rest of your life, but rather, because of your unjust death, your murder at the hands of those we are supposed to believe are here to protect and to serve. They did not protect you. They did not serve you.

I am sorry that your son won’t have you here as he grows up. He’ll know that so many people were heartbroken because of your death, yes, but when he reaches the age at which you died, 25 years from now, will he know a world that embraces his humanity, or will he experience the same one that tried to rob you of yours?

I am sad, Tyre.

I am sad that you just wanted to go home, to eat your Mom’s sesame seed chicken, and you couldn’t get home. (Because, with apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends, the providence of mothers cooking almost any kind of chicken is a universal truth practically the world over.)

I am sad that your murderers tried to dehumanize you by blasting you with their rage, by hunting you down, and by beating you to death.

I am sad that you died. I am sad that a video exists of the events that directly caused your death. I take some small solace in knowing that the video in all its unflinching, gut-wrenching, grotesque display of a Black man’s lynching in effect, is also the evidence needed to convict your murderers.

I am angry, Tyre.

I am angry that some people want to blame you. You were not to blame for your death. I tell you now, if I were in your shoes at that exact moment those police dragged me from the car, and the way the situation went to 100 in seconds – seconds ­– yes, I think I would’ve run, too. I can only imagine that at that point, you were wondering if they were going to kill you. It almost seems like that was a certain fate that night.

I am angry that white supremacy and anti-Black racism are so systemic, so pervasive, so all-consuming, that “sometimes it be your own people.” I am angry that some people still refuse to see how racism works.

I am angry that these cops were Black men who did this to you. I am angry that they lied to your face every time they told you to do something that you were already doing, or every time they told you to do something they were actively preventing you from doing. “Get on the ground!” they screamed as you lay on the asphalt. “Give me your hands!” they screamed, as three, and four, and five of them held you by the arms and the torso. Your murderers were so enraged, so engorged at the prospect of dehumanizing you, they could barely contain themselves; they pepper sprayed each other multiple times. It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so devastating, because it seems like it only made them angrier and more vengeful.

I am angry that people still want us to get over racism. How can we get over something that permeates the air we breathe? The air you breathed that night, air that no doubt was heavy with the pungent mix of fear, rage, sweat, blood and tears. Oh, the way you filled your lungs with desperation to call out your mother’s name. I weep for what you must have felt.

I am angry that your name is now remembered alongside numerous names now preserved by history, as well as untold millions whose names are known only to their kin or lost forever, as a Black person whose life was cut short simply because of your Blackness.

So what now? What to do with all this sorrow, sadness and anger? How can we – how can I – find any kind of sensical path forward out of YET ONE MORE ACT OF POLICE BRUTALITY AND RACIAL INJUSTICE?

I talk so much about empathy, about unity, about holding myself and others accountable to find the truth so that true healing might be possible. Not gonna lie, that seems like a dream at the moment, as unlikely as the you getting out of that situation unharmed that night.

But as I take a few deep breaths, as I quiet my mind, as I close my eyes, as I listen to my innermost, I see what we can’t yet see, and an ember of hope still burns inside of me. It is dimmed tonight, but it is not extinguished. Those of us who believe that racial justice and healing are crucial to America’s best version of itself do not do so simply because we want our due. It is because we understand that deep hatred within any society, of one people by another, of one culture by another, of one identity by another, is in fact the path to collective destruction. The need to dehumanize, conquer and obliterate others in words and deeds both obvious and subtle is the darkest part of our humanity, and it has been part of us since the beginning of time. But we also know what it is to humanize, to coexist, and to build one another up. We know how to do that. That is in our DNA, too. We just have to turn towards it. We just have to DO IT. And I have to believe that one day we will come to a place of understanding through action and accountability, where we as a nation have learned how to do that. Where white supremacy and anti-Black racism have lost their grip on our society. And as a result, all of the other manifestations of hatred, discrimination and power concentration will have lost their grip on American life. Yes, dismantling racism is the key that unlocks freedoms for us all.

It will take a lot, and I hope we can find it in ourselves to do it. You deserve that we do, Tyre. Your son deserves it, and all of the others whose lives have been lost this way – and their loved ones – they all deserve it.

So with my sorrow, my sadness and my anger at your death, I will recommit once again to a life lived on purpose and in pursuit of justice, love and equality. I will take advantage of the life I am still privileged to have, and which you have been unjustly denied, to continue to make a difference. I will show up with hope and revelation in one hand, and empathy and accountability in the other.

We will make sure they remember your name and we will make sure your death is not in vain. We love you, Tyre D. Nichols.

Image credit: Austin Dean via CNN.com


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