Who Was Tyre Nichols?

The significance of the murder of Tyre Nichols, and why the race of all 5 officers changes the conversation about police brutality in America


Raven Robinson, Contributor

29 years young is a skater. A hard worker who spent his days working for FedEx and his nights capturing sunsets. Saturdays were spent at the park with his son, and Sundays were reserved for quality time with his loved ones. His name was Tyre Nichols, and his life was brutally stolen by 5 police officers. Tyre Nichols is the newest name in a long list of black men whose lives were cut short unfairly by the police. But what’s different? 

The narrative has changed, and it is undeniable. It is no longer acceptable to brush police brutality under the never-ending rug of ways racism affects black people in America. 5 black men may have done the crime, but they are evidence of racism that is deeper than their melanin skin. Memphis Police Chief Charlyn CJ Davis commented on Nichol’s murder, saying, “It takes off the table that issues and problems in law enforcement [are] about race… It is not. It is about human dignity and integrity, accountability, and the duty to protect our community.” But that is where the police chief is wrong. The center of the issue still is race, but the conversation must be refocused on the policing of black communities and the denigration of black individuals by police officers. 

The system of policing in America is built to work against African Americans. The roots of policing can be traced to white people who were in charge of slave patrols to ensure slaves did not escape. The disproportionate numbers of officers in predominantly white neighborhoods, the frequent unwarranted stops of African Americans, the historical lack of punishment brought against black officers for killing black individuals, and task forces like the SCORPION unit – a group of undercover cops sent into “at risk” neighborhoods – are all legacies of a police system built against African Americans. 

Rest in peace to the beautiful soul who was Tyre Nichols. January 7th will forever be a dreadful day in American History. He will not be forgotten or minimized to his death, but instead remembered for the meaningful life he led.