Since Tyre Nichols’ police-involved death in Memphis, people continue to question how this situation counts as a racist encounter when the majority of the officers seen and heard on the explicit body camera footage were Black men.

Let this editorial serve as a reminder that, in the system of white supremacy, Black people too can act as agents of institutions that were created to control Black bodies.

Policing as many know it today originated in the slave patrols, which were established in the early 18th century to quash slave uprisings and bring those who escaped bondage back to their captors. Chattel slavery parallels modern-day policing in several ways, the most crucial being the use of other enslaved Black people as a buffer between the enslaved and the so-called slave master.

Long after the abolition of slavery, the system of white supremacy continued to thrive off of the class and ethnic schisms that pit Black people against one another.

In his 1969 book “Groundings with My Brothers,” Walter Rodney said that race has no longer been relegated to physical characteristics, but the circumstances that people, particularly nonwhite people, attempt to create on their mission to stay away from the bottom of the racial totem pole.

That’s why racial representation will never be the end all, be all in eradicating police brutality. As long as people like Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis can create the SCORPION unit, and participate in the Red Dogs unit in Atlanta before that, then Black people in urban America will always be in trouble.

The same thought comes to mind as we continue to mourn the death of Karon Blake, a 13-year-old Black youth killed by a Black D.C. government employee who our Black-ran police department and Black female mayor have yet to identify.

Indeed, the modern-day “power struggle” has centered on participating in the system of white supremacy rather than eradicating it.

That’s why we must question and eventually dismantle systems that are heavily steeped in anti-Blackness. For many of “us” in positions of power, doing so requires a long look in the mirror.

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