On Jan. 7, five police officers killed Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man in Memphis, Tennessee, and now nine people are being charged with his death. Last Thursday, the Office of Belonging, Counseling Services and the Curtis Institute hosted an open dialogue to discuss the killing with members of the Albion College community. Taran McZee, the newly-hired Chief Belonging Officer said he held the dialogue to understand the thoughts of those in attendance and for others to understand each other.
“I truly do not have an agenda,” McZee said. “I want us to have a true authentic conversation about what is taking place in our society.”
McZee briefly started the conversation, giving an overview of the case and saying how he has been struggling to process the death of Tyre Nichols.
“I have only seen 25 seconds of the video (of his murder) twice, and I had to stop,” McZee said. “I am still processing the 25 that I actually watched. Horrific, truly, truly horrific.”
Students and other staff spoke about how the event prompted them to think about the changes they want to see around campus. They gave their own opinions about what should be done to change systemic racism.
Junior Classidy Scales from Chicago gave her standpoint as a student and said this just isn’t a white-on-black issue, it’s a law enforcement versus black issue.
“As police officers, your whole thing is to protect and serve,” Scales said. “Watch people line up, basically beat him to death, shows who you are as a person.”
They violated their oath, Scales said. Watching people of the same skin color take this action against another person was something that they couldn’t understand.
“Once you take that badge off, you’re Black.” Scales said. “We might be skin folk, but we ain’t kin folk.”’
Brittany Bruch, the assistant director of community relations and the School of Public Purpose, said that in order to make a real change, the legal system needs to be abolished and a new system created.
“These systems are not designed to protect and serve. There is no innocent until proven guilty, it’s guilty until proven innocent,” Burch said. “If we do not completely abolish the police department, things will never change.”
It’s not all police officers to blame, but it’s the police that keeps making these situations, Burch said, adding that the college is not teaching students skills to combat these situations in real life.
Professors Trisha Franzen and Nels Christensen agreed that Albion College does not produce people who can properly deal with racist situations.
“I don’t know if Albion college is set up to prepare people for the system,” Franzen said.
Adding to that, Christensen said the college has yet to be the place that can produce these kinds of people who can face these situations properly.
“If we want Albion College to be the college that produces people who have radical ideas, then we have to become that thing,” Christensen said.
Christensen said that it isn’t just the students’ responsibility. Professors also have to police themselves to make sure these people are being made.
Beyond inspiring change locally, Burch said that American systems of policing have to change.
“If the system was designed to do just this, the harming of people, it doesn’t matter who it affects,” Burch said. “The system was designed to do one thing and it only does one thing, how do we get rid of it? We tear it down.”