The murder of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers took place in another state far from Pennsylvania. But it reveals a basic truth about structural racism in policing that sadly characterizes every state in the entire country, including Pennsylvania. Black people are not the only ones who are unjustly attacked and murdered by police officers. But the evidence is clear that they are disproportionately the victims of unjustified police violence.
That violence is a product of a deeply flawed approach to public safety, one that asks police forces to maintain order in communities that are afflicted by social ills and economic distress that are beyond their capacity to address. A product of police forces is that, in response to the impossible task placed on them, they can adopt procedures and policies that too often create a toxic relationship between them and the communities they have pledged to serve—one that encourages unjustified police violence. And it is a product of ingrained, structurally racist practices and beliefs that too often encourage officers, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religion, to disregard the rights and simple humanity of Black people.
Tragedies like the murder of Tyre Nichols will continue in this country until we, as a society, recognize and address the sources and the intersection of economic inequality and structural racism.
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