Why I Refuse to Watch the Footage of Tyre Nichols

I made the decision not to view the tape of Tyre Nichols being beaten by police officers. A brutalized Black body as ratings and click bait for the infotainment complex and for those immune to violence is not entertaining to me.

We live in a country in which 1,183 people were killed by police last year. We have already experienced more than 60 mass shootings in the first six weeks of this year alone.
Obsessive coverage of violent events only fuels the bloodlust that is as much a part of our culture as apple pie. Clearly, we are not problem solving.

My decision to pass on the video of Mr. Nichols, to draw the line, was not a hard one to make. But my efforts to avoid the brutality failed miserably. On several of my favorite cable programs, broadcasters waxed flimsily on how the public needed to see the video because we pay officers’ salaries (Mr. Nichols was allegedly attacked in Memphis, I live in New York), that we needed to see the film on our own to contextualize the conversation about police brutality. Huh?

Tyre Nichols

On one show, the anchor announced in advance the length of the “disturbing” footage she would air, allowing me to change channels. But when a second, longer clip played, she forgot to give the audience a heads-up, and I found myself inadvertently watching the brutality from the confines of my bedroom.

The anchors of two other shows warned of the impending “upsetting” footage, allowing me once again to change the station. When I switched back to hear vital commentary by former police officials and activists, I was stunned to find the programs running clips of the savagery on split screens. By mid-evening on Friday, I gave up on all news coverage and watched ice skating instead.

The footage of Tyre Nichols at the end of January was coupled with that of two other stories: The first was of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi’s octogenarian husband being assaulted in his San Francisco home, his legs splayed as he fell to the ground with his alleged attacker. An anchor of a new lunchtime magazine show spluttered “Oh God!” after the video was aired without a warning from her production team. I exhaled as my pulse ticked up; I was just as shocked as she.

We are a nation awash in blood. Wikipedia lists more than one hundred True Crime podcasts. Shows such as Dateline and 48 Hours regularly feature stories of wives who have killed their husbands, husbands who have killed their wives and children who have killed their parents. Morning TV shows feature previews of these programs, with anchors lauding colleagues for their investigative skills and jailhouse interviews as I sip my morning coffee.

The other story was that of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, on trial for the brutal murders of his wife and son. There are a few True Crime series on these murders in the can or on schedule to air in the upcoming months. Dateline, for example, already ran one last year with the theatrical title of “Dark Waters.” A follow-up podcast is available for those for whom Dateline was not enough.

Saturday Night Live’s much-heralded “Buckwheat Got Shot” skit spoofed the media’s exploitative coverage of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan almost 42 years ago. Fast forward to today’s social media and round-the-clock cable coverage: Buckwheat’s assault would be dissected by armchair detectives and conspiracy theorists, and misrepresented by the right wing as an Antifa-inspired event, proving that we are even more damaged as a nation now than we were then.

Wanton bloodshed, which once inspired national outrage and unity, presents opportunities for prurient curiosity, partisan viciousness and rabid division now.

These are the things I understand about the latest police-brutality case that has gripped America: Tyre Nichols was stopped on the vague charge of “driving recklessly” by members of a police unit with no responsibility for traffic violations. He was manhandled, at best, and unnecessarily roughed up at worst, then captured and savagely beaten after an attempt to run. He died three days later in a hospital.

With a Congress led by the who’s who of seditionists and conspiracy theorists, there will be no meaningful anti-police brutality legislation in the 118th Congress. The standing ovation that Tyre Nichols’s parents received at the State of the Union address last night may only be performative. Any changes in policing will take place on the state and local levels. We have been here before.

Tyre Nichols’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wells

In a press conference and an appearance on Rev. Al Sharpton’s PoliticsNation on MSNBC two weekends ago, Tyre Nichols’s mother said that the now former police officers allegedly responsible for her son’s death have disgraced themselves, their families and their community. Amen. I didn’t need hours of back-to-back violence porn to gather all that.

Less than a week after I started writing this piece, Anthony Lowe, a double amputee, was shot to death by police in California. Long before all the details of his complicated case were available, footage was shown of Lowe jumping out of his wheelchair and attempting to run on his stumps away from police.

About Cheryl_McCourtie

Baldhead Empress, Cheryl McCourtie, has been a magazine editor and writer, and a nonprofit fund-raiser and communications specialist. Raised in Liberia, Malawi and Swaziland, she is avidly interested in women across the globe, in particular and people in general. The Baldhead Empress site is one of affirmation. Cheryl looks forward to sharing her positivity with as many like-minded people as possible. One Love!.
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