Why did this happen?
Why did police continue to beat Tyre Nichols as he complied with their instructions?
Why didn’t they stop?
Why did yet another Black family needlessly lose a loved one with the world watching in horror?
Those are the questions I keep asking after seeing the video footage released yesterday of the murder of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police.
I also found myself asking “what.” As in, what are parents going to tell their kids about this, and what will educators tell their students on Monday morning to make sense of this tragedy?
What are we going to do to stop this from happening?
As I said in our statement last night, the protection of and respect for human life should be the fundamental principle that guides all American policing — but, once again, that responsibility has been cast aside in the most craven and excruciating way imaginable. Sen. Tim Scott was right: Nichols’ death is the “result of a clear, vile abuse of power” and should “serve as a call to action for every lawmaker in our nation at every level.”
As President Joe Biden said, the footage is leaving thousands of Americans justifiably outraged. We know Nichols’ death and the circumstances surrounding it are traumatic for our members, our students and the communities we serve. As a union, we’re committed to justice and stand against the abuse of force, and we will live our values by continuing to show solidarity and support.
For many educators and parents, talking to our kids and students about this will be difficult. I want to let you know that we have free resources on Share My Lesson for teaching about race and racism, lessons for restoring hope and dignity, and resources on police and the use of force.
Share My Lesson also has free resources on dealing with trauma as well as lessons on hope and dignity, and the AFT offers free trauma counseling for members. If you or any of your students or members need extra support, please use these resources.
Racism and other types of discrimination cannot be ignored. The AFT has passed multiple resolutions addressing racial justice and affirming not only that Black lives matter, but that everyone should feel safe in their schools, workplaces and communities regardless of their race, religion, gender expression, sexual orientation or background. For a full list of the AFT’s resolutions, visit aft.org/about/resolutions.
As we mourn with the community in Memphis, we ask that those who plan to protest please stay safe and peaceful, as Tyre Nichols’ family has requested. As we move forward, we’ll be in touch with next steps and how you can be involved.