Three weeks ago, 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee, during a traffic stop and died three days later. In light of this incident and in advance of video footage that is set to be released by Memphis officials Friday evening, Bishop Lanette Plambeck issued the following pastoral message:
Dear siblings in Christ:
Later today, the city of Memphis is set to release the body cam video of the devastatingly violent beating and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols; footage on that video led to five police officers being charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. I trust many of you have been following this story with hearts breaking as we once again witness the violent death of yet another Black child of God in America. We weep as Tyre’s story joins those of George, Breonna, Ahmad, Trayvon, Sandra, and countless others.
As we await the release of the video, I am urging United Methodists from across the area to begin praying. Please pray for the family of Tyre Nichols and for all impacted by this brutal attack. I also feel compelled to say that it is okay if you do not view the video. While the body cam footage is being shared in the name of transparency, viewing the video will be traumatizing. Furthermore, watching the video may further dehumanize Tyre Nichols and the pain and suffering he experienced. Perhaps instead, you might choose to watch a video of Mr. Nichols enjoying one of his life’s passions: skateboarding.
Today we can choose to center ourselves for the work of justice and advocacy before us. In the posture of love, we can find ways to gather in community with one another to share hurts and hopes, to weep in holy anger, and to form our prophetic and pastoral response for Sunday is coming. For any who are struggling to understand how Black police officers could perpetuate such violence against Mr. Nichols, I encourage you to read, “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.” I trust there will be a time to participate in non-violent forms of protest and ways in which we can respond to advocate for change in our systems and structures that perpetuate violence, racism, and oppression.
For those who wish to deepen their anti-racist toolkit and need further support, I recommend these resources:
General Commission on Religion and Race racial justice resources
How to share video evidence of racial trauma honorably
Racial justice conversations guide
Together, let us not waver in our work toward racial justice and system reform; this work is our work. Let it begin today.
Bishop Lanette Plambeck
Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church