“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m going off-script this week, and I’m gonna say right up front, I will probably regret it.
There are some topics that, even if you have an opinion on it, it’s better to keep it to yourself. This feels like one of those.
However, much like when I decided to write about gun violence after the Uvalde, Texas shooting, I’m foregoing my better judgment and saying, “fuck it.”
This week, you couldn’t turn on a TV or radio or get on the internet without hearing or seeing something about Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old father who was beaten to death by five police officers in Memphis, TN.
A 29-year-old father.
If he felt in any way about his son, like I feel about my daughter, that is most likely how he identified himself.
Not as a FedEx worker, photographer, or skateboarder.
But as a dad.
I’ve watched the videos of the traffic stop and the beating multiple times. Each time it gets my heart rate up and my adrenaline flowing. In my younger (and dumber) days, I may or may not have been in a physical altercation now and then. And I’ve been on both the winning and losing end of those altercations.
But here’s the thing.
There comes the point in those situations where it is obvious to everyone involved that the fight is over and it’s time to stop. And I’m talking about fair, one-on-one fights. Not five-on-one, with that one’s hands tied behind their back. Even immature high school and college kids can realize when enough is enough and, as the victor, walk away when it’s time.
So, how can five grown-ass men, hired to protect the public, not have the common sense to know when enough is enough? I understand there may be some violence when apprehending a suspect, but come on.
Did he run from the cops? Yes. And based on the video from the traffic stop, I can’t say I blame him.
As a smartass kid who had a problem with authority, I’ve said and done a few things that have drawn the ire of law enforcement. And yes, I have run from the cops before. Never for fear of my life, but for fear of waking up my parents with a call from jail in the middle of the night (again.)
In none of those situations did I deserve to die. Nor did I deserve to be beaten the way Mr. Nichols was. And neither did he.
Like gun violence in the U.S., police brutality needs to be addressed.
I’m not calling for riots, retaliations, or defunding of the police.
But there is clearly a problem. You may not think it is your problem. Maybe you live in an affluent neighborhood. Maybe you’ve never so much as jaywalked or driven in the carpool lane by yourself. Maybe you think this only happens in other places to other people.
Maybe you think this is someone else's problem.
If this sounds like you, I respectfully disagree.
It is OUR problem.
The strength of our society is only as good as the underlying belief in the fragile systems upon which it is built. If you lose belief, the systems break down, and society follows.
The important thing to note here is that not everyone needs to lose belief for the system to fail. Studies done in 2018 by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of London show that 25% of the population is enough to enact significant change in what is deemed socially acceptable.
Others, like Harvard professor Erica Chenoweth, suggest the number is much lower. In 2013 she devised the 3.5% rule, which claims “no government has withstood a challenge of 3.5% of their population mobilized against it during a peak event.”
These studies evaluate slightly different things in somewhat different ways. Still, the overarching theme is that it takes a relatively small portion of the population to call existing policies into question and enact change.
Whether that number is 3.5% or 25%, I don’t know. The people behind these studies are at least 300% smarter than me, so I’m not going to argue with any of them. But if I had to guess, the actual number is probably somewhere in the middle.
Either way, if a relatively small number of people lose faith in the system, the system no longer works. If enough people truly begin to believe that the criminal justice system is no longer there to protect them and is more of a threat than security to them, it loses all value. And that’s a big deal. Whether you are in Memphis, Los Angeles, New York, or my little farm town in Ohio, the repercussions of that will be felt by all of us.
So what do we do?
We talk about it.
It is increasingly important that we ask questions and treat the issue of police brutality with the respect it deserves. In too many ways, its treatment resembles that of gun violence in the U.S. When there is a tragedy, it dominates headlines and social media feeds. It’s the topic of all conversations. But then, we stick those conversations in the drawer and file them away until the next time. And there is always a next time.
None of what I have said here is an indictment of all police officers. I personally know several. Many, many of them are amazing human beings. I am in no way saying they are all bad people, just that they work in a less-than-ideal system.
And we owe it to those who have undeservedly lost their lives not to pretend otherwise.
I hope you all have a great week!
As always, I would love to hear from you.
If you read something here that resonates with you, leave a comment.
If you would like to discuss something further, shoot me an email.
If there was something you absolutely hated, @ me on Twitter.
And if there is something you think I should be writing about, please let me know.
If you want to see more of my work, visit chasinganswers.co.
Thank you for reading, and if you liked what you read, please share.
Chasing answers? Already 38 ? So many chapters, damn? I have to help you set up some good traps, lol! Because it is OUR problem!
You have surely missed my outstanding Subtract!
Friendly regards from Nicaragua, heavily sanctioned, where I scrape by at the Gates of Hell, the Masaya Volcano, at the very bleeding heart of Central America. Hell, sweet hell, err, home. I meant home, sweet hell!
Esteemed Substacker, If you read my first two posts, you will find out about how dramatic and humble my landing here actually was. Then I started to write and post like a madman like there was no tomorrow because my real life situation seemed that way, and things have not calmed down, have not changed yet! Not only because life, in general and particular, is not a word, but a sentence, but because sometimes serving this sentence makes one feel like dropping dead any minute, I have decided to chime in with something transcendentally relevant. Enjoy it to the very last breath as I do, a soldier of Christ, fighting in the first row, breathing heavily, no matter cannon fodder you do not have to pledge anything, my efforts are always free.
Left to my own devices and salivating in the tropical scorcher, in the erupting drought season, the promised $20 bill of rights rain has not even started yet for me here on Subtract, yes, I just want to make you laugh, not cry, as I wipe a tear or two. It seems like nobody´s gold pennies can reach my flying BullShip skyhigh. Yet I stay working Job, patience is my virtue upon the rack, tried, drawn, and quartered as vice driven through the rusty nails of my faith .... until I, one-armed, cannot carry my heavy cross anymore. I keep saying this only to myself as a wounded gladiator in the public arena. Hope you all still having fun ....
Substack is my new home, like I was sort of homeless. And yes, it does get lonely in the jungle if you live alone. Substack to me now means the world, the greatest platform where I can share my massive varied writing stuff. I have quite a few posts already here with 69, whoops, subscribers and growing every day as people are finally noticing my stranded S.O.S. sign on the beach! Thank God, thanks to you good people. Thank you for noticing me, for hearing me out, for supporting me! I am truly humbled. Do not let my monumental or trivial issues grind you down! God bless you all!
PS: Please excuse my typos, grammar, etc. because I am not perfect, I am just human. I use a looking glass and my second rate English is my third yet my most beloved language.
Amazing! Thank you writing this Randy!