I’ll gladly admit that getting back into the swing of writing articles is not nearly as easy as I thought it would be, not helped by the fact that — despite the job I have chosen requiring me to come up with new things to say about politics and the world around me, it seems civilization wants to keep the same controversies we once had. If I may borrow a quote from the famous sociologist Kenneth Clarke while testifying to the Kerner Commission:
I must again in candor say to you . . . it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland with the same moving picture reshown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations, and the same inaction.
The Kerner Commission was established in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson in hopes of finding the cause of a then-recent series of riots in African American communities that occurred over the summer. The most infamous of these riots being the one which occurred in Detroit, where twenty three civilizations were killed. Many of these riots were in response to systemic inequalities, and the Kerner Commission concluded, to put it bluntly, that people would stop rioting over this issue if it was solved. President Johnson knew this all to well, and hoped his Great Society would be the thing that solved the systemic issues black Americans faced.
Of course, Richard Nixon got into office in 1969 and scaled back many of the policies Johnson put into place, while largely taking a “law and order” route in response to riots in response to injustice. Nixon mocked the Kerner Commission, saying it blamed “everybody but the rioters themselves.” (Although, during his presidential campaign, he did throw token rhetoric in about caring about injustice — primarily in hopes of appearing as the middle ground between Nelson Rockafeller, who supported solving the issues black Americans faced, and Ronald Reagan, who supported “law and order.”)
I mention all of this because of the killing of Tyre Nichols by police officers on 1/7/2023 — specifically, the release of the body camera footage of the police officers involved on 1/27/2023 — has brought police brutality back into mainstream discussion. Protests have erupted all over the country, starting with small ones led by the Memphis, Tennessee chapter of Black Lives Matter the same night as the footage became publicly available, bringing back memories of the same protests America saw two and a half years ago in response to the killing of George Floyd.
One has to wonder what exactly it is about police in the United States that make them immune to learning from past experiences. The officers in question stopped Nichols without probable cause — as admitted by Memphis’s own police chief — for what amounted to a minor traffic violation. Mind you, again, that’s giving the police the benefit of the doubt and assuming the police actually had a reason to stop Nichols, which no investigation has been able to provide.
Honestly, when I see people riot because of police brutality, I think we should always make sure to blame the police — if they weren’t beating people up, nobody would be rioting.