A Month in America

School shootings, deadly police encounters, and a distinctly American relentlessness.

Patrick Lantrip/AP

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Tyre Nichols was a “good boy” who spent Sundays doing laundry and preparing for the week, his mother told CNN.

“Does that sound like somebody that the police said did all these bad things?” RowVaugh Wells asked. “Nobody‚Äôs perfect, okay, but he was damn near.”

Among the most gut-wrenching details to emerge from the murder of Tyre Nichols, this quote from his mother is staying with me as we await the release of bodycam footage that will show how Nichols was killed during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this month. For now, we know that all five police officers involved in Nichols’ beating have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. “Absolutely appalling,” is how David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, described the fatal police encounter.  On Thursday, President Biden issued a statement offering his condolences, while calling for peaceful protests ahead of the video’s release. “Violence is destructive and against the law,” the president said, a familiar refrain. Nichols loved his mother and was an adoring father to a 4-year-old boy.

His death came just days after Keenan Anderson died from cardiac arrest after repeatedly being tased by LAPD officers in another traffic stop. “They’re trying to George Floyd me,” Anderson can be heard saying in body camera footage,  heartbreaking last words recalling a movement that’s slowly receded into memory. These deadly police encounters involving Black men come amid a string of school shootings, another distinctly American plague, one of which involves a 6-year-old boy. In California, back-to-back shootings have left Asian Americans stuck in trauma. 

Desensitized, outraged, and self-defeated. Watching these tragedies unfold with a relentlessness that only an American in 2023 can uniquely identify with, it’s hard not to feel a mix of these emotions colliding with one another. Tonight’s video release will surely extend our collapse of hope for a less deadly future.

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