From the President
CONDOLENCES TO BLACK AMERICANS
As the Nation celebrates the contributions of countless Black Americans during Black History Month, it pains me that atrocities against this community continue in plain sight. The beating and death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee on January 7, 2023, was horrific. The killing was akin to the death of George Floyd in 2020 and numerous others at the hands of police. In fact, the Washington Post has been tracking killings of unarmed civilians by police since 2015. They report, from their database between 2015 and 2023, that 148 unarmed Black people were victims of police shootings. Based on the proportion of Blacks in America (14%) to White Americans (71%), there are twice as many Black victims of police shootings (1,905) as Whites (3,622). What is most troubling is the ages of the victims. More than half were 20-40 years old.
Hearing Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother brought me to tears. As a mother of a young Black man living in America, I have had “the talk” with him. It is a painful conversation that no mother or father should need to have with their son for his protection while living in America. What is “the talk?” It is a serious instructive conversation with your child, specifically boys, about how to behave when stopped by the police regardless of the ethnicity or color of the police. This talk happens as early as possible in the child’s development. Most talks happen prior to entering school. This talk can be scary and traumatic to a young child, but it must be given. Unfortunately, as seen in the video of Tyre Nichols, even when he was cooperative (obeying the directions his mother gave him) and crying out for his mother not far from his home, it did not deter the police from beating him to death. But these police officers were BLACK! I am sure their mothers also had the talk with them. I was amazed that the “Blue” culture of the police force had greater influence than their identification with another Black man. This should not be!
I am also having dissonance about the swift way these police officers were charged, within days, verses the weeks, months, or no official charges to date of White officers. Of course, they should be swiftly charged. But, in the other scenarios, not only were the bodycam videos not released timely, but no charges were made until the public demanded it. Even in this, there was great disparity and a sense of unfairness. This should not be!
I confess, writing this article has been very difficult and triggering. I started several times, only to put it aside. I realize, like many other Blacks living in America, I am impacted by these killings. I cry. I worry anew for my son. The brazen disregard of life and lack of concern, even with a bodycam recording the event, is reminiscent of the eras of slavery and the Ku Klux Klan. Today, sadness, fear, hypervigilance, and trauma are words I am hearing from countless Black people within the community and my clients. The whole BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community is suffering from attacks made because of the color of their skin. This should not be!
Christina Pazzanese, a Harvard Gazette Staff Writer interviewed David R. Williams, a Harvard University researcher who concluded a study in 2018. His research is the first of its kind to study the impact of police killings of Black unarmed victims. He found that these killings not only negatively impacted the mental health of the victims’ families, but also Blacks living in the state where the killings occurred for the next 3-months. The same was not true of the White communities within the same state. They concluded a combination of perceived unfairness (victims were unarmed) and a greater sense of vulnerability were what increased the poor mental health outcomes (Harvard Gazette, May 2021).
I mentioned earlier, this is Black History Month. As part of bringing information and suggestions from the Cultural Diversity Committee, I will continue sharing insights and information throughout the month. Please check the webpage and the calendar of events for wonderful events throughout the month that celebrate the beautiful culture and learn more about the significant contributions made over the 400+ years.
To the small community of BIPOC within SDPA, I offer my condolences. My heart is sad and joined with yours. The loss of Tyre Nichols is yet another example of an innocent Black human being gone too soon. Time after time, we see our future legacies robbed from us, and our men incarcerated at rates that are disproportionate and unfair. This also robs us of fathers in the homes. This robs our Nation also of their contributions. This should not be!
Darlene R. Townes, Psy.D.